English Jettons

What are Jettons?

More correctly called, in English, Reckoning Counter, also Jeton (French) & Rechen-pfenning (German). A coin-like object used in the calculation of accounts. Most commonly made of copper or brass; but also silver (especially 17th century and after): very rarely gold. Lead jettons are also known but their purpose is obscure as they would wear out quickly. Jettons are known from England, France, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain & probably other countries. Originally "jettons" would have been pebbles or pieces of pottery (the word calculate derives from calx - pebble). The first specially struck jettons seem to be mid 13th century (French), the earliest English fourth quarter of the13th century.

They never show a mark of value because, unlike tokens, jettons merely represent a value, by means of their position on a reckoning table ( or cloth) also known as an abacus. This is not to be confused with the bead frame device still in use; although employing a similar principle. They were in common use before current methods of arithmetic using so-called Arabic numerals were adopted in Europe. Their general use probably ceased in the 17th century, although retained for ceremonial reckoning of accounts in France and the Netherlands until the 18th century. Later pieces, looking more medallic, were also used as entry passes and convention souvenirs. Jettons had been widely used as gaming counters from the 15th century.