Tokens & Token Collecting

I thought I would start this off by wishing everyone a safe and happy 4th of July, may the ooh’s and aah’s of the fireworks be plentiful.

Lets talk a little bit about tokens and token collecting.

There are many many tokens out there for just about anything and everything that you can think of and I am just going to talk about Civil War Tokens for now.

Civil War TokenCivil War Token Back

Only in two periods of American history has the need for a private token coinage been absolute that is because the reigning authority proved unable to provide a circulating metallic medium of exchange sufficient to the needs of commerce. People began hording hard currency, even one-cent pieces, in 1862 and by July of that year there was no one willing to pay out coin of the realm. Though the Mint remained in operation and all sorts of paper substitutes for small change appeared, from paper script and cardboard chits to postage stamps, the needs of commerce simply demanded something better, something familiar and durable.

Civil War tokens were of two basic types, the so-called “patriotic” tokens which contained no sponsor’s name who would redeem them for cash, and the “store cards” which did name a redeemer. The redeemer was often ephemeral when it came time to pay up, but most merchant issuers in fact did redeem their creations. The collecting of these substitute cents began almost as soon as they started appearing. One of the largest collections of CWT’s ever assembled is the Groh collection, which served as the basis for the 1882-1883 catalog which appeared serially in Coin Collector’s Journal. This collection is part of the American Numismatic Society’s cabinet in New York City. An interesting note about CWT’s is that the widespread use of them, most of which were of pure copper and measured 19 to 20 millimeters in diameter, actually led the United States government to imitate certain of the best features of the tokens in the legal tender coinage. There are over 11,000 varieties of the CWT’s out there for collectors with rarities ranging from R1 to R10. To give you an example of the rarity scale an R1 means that they are ‘Very Common’ and have 5000 or more to still be in existence and an R10 is ‘Unique’ meaning only 1 known to exist. Pricing for these tokens depends on the condition of the coin itself and the rarity of both the front and back of the coin, the picture that accompanies this article is a ‘Patriotic’ CWT. It has Patriotic Die #’s 51 for the front and 332 for the back. Rarity wise they are both R1’s and condition is in fine to very fine shape. I would price it in the $10-$12 range, and just an example of how the rarity plays into the pricing, a similar coin with Die #’s 56 and 333 in the same condition changes the rarity to R5 and R6 respectively also changes the price to $25-$30 for the R5 and $140-$150 for the R6.

Brian Dresback,

Manager, Christopher’s Rare Coins