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Shops and Goods

"What is't you buy?"

The new and fashionable attracted shoppers, from the country girl who wanted to buy "London silk" from her local draper and haberdasher to the well-to-do who demanded and increasingly diverse range of luxury goods from abroad. Merchants used their knowledge to tailor goods such as Venetian glass and Chinese porcelain to the home market. As business prospered, they extended credit to those shoppers without cash on hand. At the same time, contemporary representations of shopping in sermons, plays, courtesy literature, and court cases dwelt on the dangers of shopping and the bargaining away of virtue and estate.


Tokens such as these, from the Seven Stars, the White Hart, and Mary Long's at the Sign of the Rose, were issued by tradesmen in part because of the scarcity of small coins, but they also served to advertise the businesses they represented. In the 1650s and 1660s, hundreds of shopkeepers issued and distributed such tokens, enabling eager shoppers to purchase items like the luxurious fur muffs shown in Czech artist Wenceslaus Hollar's engraving.


The muffs, lace collars, gloves, and fans so skillfully depicted by Hollar were also celebrated in the grand portraits of the period. Men and women sitting for portraits were sure to be depicted wearing the most sumptuous and fashionable clothes and surrounded by rich fabrics, tapestries, and other goods that signaled their wealth and nobility.


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Wenceslaus Hollar.  A Group of Muffs. Etching, 1647

Group of three tradesman's tokens, 17th century

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