Necklace and Sugar Plumb (sic) Token

This advert is so delightfully worded and cheerfully revolting. The eye-catching newspaper ads of the day show exactly what might be gnawing at your intestines. Source: The General Advertiser 1748.

No groaning, please. You may have seen this stater on a previous occasion, but many haven’t.

When I was a rather inexperienced detectorist and found my first gold stater, I simply thought, “That looks rather nice,” and stowed it away in the pocket of my jeans. 

The use of the word ‘first’ suggests that there may have been more. I live in hope! With the benefit of hindsight and if a second is ever found, a ‘detector dance’ will be executed and ( I wrote at the time), the precious coin placed carefully and snugly inserted between two layers of foam in an old baccy tin, then tucked in the zipped compartment of my finds’ pouch. Time to phone Securicor to escort me home. If I want to show anybody in the field, it’ll take more extracting than an over-packaged Tesco tea bag.  Aye, that all comes with experience and learning. Even though I exaggerate a tad, you will understand my meaning.

Over the years I have regurgitated the next piece of advice in different forms and on many occasions. When you start detecting, ALL FINDS, whether gold or glass should be regarded as interestingly significant in their own way and should be treated as such. DON’T DISCARD ANYTHING until your knowledge has increased and you are absolutely 100% sure that it is the dross you originally thought it was. Although it embarrasses me to relate the tale now, I confess to discarding a large fragment of La Tène brooch thinking it as just another piece of old metal; so I do speak with some authority on the subject.

Around that time I wrote about an advertising token found by a detectorist named Vic. The token was advertising quack remedies, the ‘Anodyne Necklace’ and ‘Famous Sugar Plumbs’. These are more like advertising medalets instead of tokens. Viv’s find became the catalyst for interesting research and understanding of a piece of social history. This was his find:

Anodyne Necklace

© Vic’s Find

The token was usually made of copper, sometimes white metal, about the size of an old halfpenny and with a hole for suspension of the enterprising ‘health’ product around the neck . It reminds me of those copper magnetic bangles for the relief of rheumatism sold today. The reverse is much clearer than the obverse and reads: “BASIL BURCHELL * SOLE PROPRIETOR OF THE ANODYNE NECKLACE FOR CHILDREN CUTTING TEETH”. I have ‘borrowed’ a token from the Bay that is easier to read.

Although they were usually deliberately pierced (pre-drilled) to enable them to be attached to Burchell’s products as a guarantee of their authenticity, the token shown above is almost pristine and unsullied. Since it has not been holed for attachment to a peony root necklace or to a bag of sugar plums, I am presuming some like this were struck and left like this for collectors.

The remedies were quite expensive at about five shillings, two week’s wages at that time, yet very popular. ‘Anodyne’ was, I understand, the name of the firm, but the word can also be used as an adjective, meaning ‘to relieve pain’. That’s not a coincidence.

Sugar Plumbs and that Necklace

I must admit that I didn’t understand what ‘sugar plumbs’ were, but after a little snooping (research is too posh a word) that kind man Mr Google came to the rescue. “The necklaces possibly consisted of beads of peony wood that could be sucked by teething children. The ‘sugar-plumbs’ (think sugared almonds) were made with the active ingredient being lead acetate, which probably caused more harm to the children than the worms!”

Burchell reckoned that children would also eat his ‘Worm-destroying Cake’ just as they would a common sugar plumb. Yes, this quack medicine were supposed to purge worms.The obverse of the token reads: BASIL BURCHELL * SOLE PROPRIETOR OF THE FAMOUS SUGAR PLUMBS FOR WORMS No. 79 * LONG ACRE”. Edge inscription: THIS IS NOT A COIN BUT A MEDAL .

That last phrase is interesting for in this way, proprietors were able to avoid incurring the wrath of the authorities whilst simultaneously appropriating the credibility associated with official coinage. There is a much more detailed explanation on the Anatomy Lab by Dr Iain Macleod. Here’s a small extract to whet your appetite:

Such tokens became common during the 18th Century and were often used as money, particularly when there was an inadequate supply of legal currency in small denominations. Eventually, Parliament tried to regain control by producing a copper penny and two-pence coin in 1797 and from 1818, prohibited the production of “exclusive” tokens as currency. 

Dr. Iain Macleod

Read MORE from Dr. Iain and The Anatomy Lab

Sam Johnson – Piers Morgan of the day?

Dr Samuel Johnson was critical of the growth in advertising and of the methods which were beginning to be used to appeal to the public. He accused the Anodyne advertisement which warned every mother that she would never forgive herself if her infant should perish without the necklace, of trying to scare mothers into buying the product (a tactic not unknown today).

Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson, often referred to as Dr Johnson, was an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, playwright, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor, and lexicographer.


Vic’s finding of a copper disk with a hole has taken us on an interesting and illuminating journey with the added bonus of a little insight into some of Britain’s best-known and long-lived domestic remedies.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

How to make your own sugar plums – click here


United Kingdom Detector Finds Database (UKDFD) * Vic the Detectorist

eBay * Dr. Iain Macleod * The Anatomy Lab * Baldwin’s Coin Auction

BBC * NGC Registry * Surgeons’ Hall Museum * The Copper Corner

Collector’s Society * The Token Society * CoinTalk * QuoteSoup

Quack Doctor * Science Museum * Food History Jottings * Galata

Wellcome Foundation * Biblio * Picclick *

18 thoughts on “Necklace and Sugar Plumb (sic) Token”

  1. Well done John with another interesting post.
    I always remember when in my younger years if my mother ever saw me scratching my backside she said she would give me a worm tablet if I didn’t stop.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another fascinating post John… The coins/tokens/medalete items that you have over there just show how much more history you have than us. Our tokens ate a ‘good for’ type.. nothing like those which do there best to terrify children and mothers..

    But as to your stater and putting it in a pocket.. when I found my first gold coin [a $10.00 US half eagle]. I too just tossed it into my pouch.. did not think anything was special about it.. at least until later.. LOL


    Liked by 1 person

  3. The mere utterance of “Tonight when you’re sleeping I’m going to get my flashlight and check you for worms” was enough to make you stop scratching your butt as a kid. LOL…..

    It’s good to know that their products could potentially cure you of worms…….although I should think getting lead poisoning, cancer or even death because of the lead acetate might be considered a tad bit worse? LOL…

    I don’t know about any of you, but as a kid if we got a burn from the fire because we got to close when roasting marshmallows our parents would always put butter on the burn? It never occurred to me that putting grease on a burn was a dumb thing to do, until much later in life. LOL…..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you, Ian. I’ve turned a corner and thinking more positively. Rather than sitting in a chair all day feeling depressed, I’ve started a new blog. I’ve been spending a lot of time on posts and trying to make the overall look of the site better than before. Early days, but the last blog had over 1500 followers; I have abut 20 at the moment. 😦


  5. The stater is the only item I have ever sold. It was the landowner’s wish. When I found and shared it with him he said, “Hang on to it, John. We may need the money one day.” That day finally arrived. Now, I have only the picture to remind me.


  6. So glad you are being positive. Being isolated almost constantly since the start of October I have got rather lethargic. The high pollen count at the moment is not helping I have even found that I have not been phoning friends and family. My apologies. Take care both and hopefully it won’t be long before we can have a coffee together.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Just a displacement activity, Ian. There are more important things I should be doing.


  8. Thank you Stella . . . are you just a little biased? 🙂 Pleased you made it . . . eventually.
    When you scoffed rock buns straight from a hot oven me Ma always said that you’d get worms!
    When I ate all of my food she’d ask, “Have you got a bliddy tapeworm”?
    Happy days, e3h?


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