Oliver Keith Rumbel was an internationally renowned numismatist, or coin collector, whose passion for collecting communion tokens was shared by his wife Margaret. Together, they amassed a collection of 3,840 communion coins, beggar’s badges, photographs, photocopies, and publications outlining the history and use of these little metal Presbyterian relics. This rare collection, possibly the world’s largest collection, was donated to the Austin Seminary Archives by Oliver Keith in the 1950s and 1960s and by Margaret in 1993.
The use of communion tokens was first suggested by John Calvin to mark those deemed worthy to enter into communion service; they were possibly used during times of religious persecution in Scotland to mark those who were faithful. The earliest communion tokens were considered to be holy objects. When a church found it necessary to secure new tokens, the elders had the responsibility to melt, bury, or destroy the old tokens. In later years, congregations were less concerned about the holiness of the tokens and individual members kept them as souvenirs.
The coins were typically made of lead or pewter and marked with either the name of the town, church, minister, year, or a Bible verse. The coins, as seen in the Rumbel collection, come in various sizes and shapes—round, square, oval, oblong, and heart shaped.
Among the Rumbel collection are ten beggar’s badges. These metal insignia were worn by beggars in Great Britain and Ireland in the 18th century to identify them as being from a local parish.
The value of the Rumbel collection of communion tokens and beggar’s badges is unknown. Tokens for sale on online auction sites can be found for as much as $300.
To view this collection and other artifacts in the archives, make an appointment with Austin Seminary’s archivist Kristy Sorensen.
Browse the archives on the Austin Seminary Website at www.austinseminary.edu/archives
Contact the Archivist: Kristy Sorensen, email@example.com, 512-404-4875