Today I had a chance to sit down with Tom, our resident Civil War Token expert, to chat about his area of expertise. He had a lot to share about the subject!
Civil War tokens are tokens that were privately minted between 1861 and 1864. Tom informed me that they were not official currency- during the War, people would hoard their gold, silver and copper-nickel official US currency. Private minters across the country would create these tokens, assign them a certain value, most commonly one or two cents, and once they entered circulation, they would be redeemable from the minter for that value.
I asked Tom to show me a few of his favorites.
This “Bully For You” token is one of Tom’s favorites, and mine. It is a ‘store token’, something along the lines of a modern day gift card. The antiquated expression was something that was said to praise one’s accomplishments- Bravo! Bully for you!- and I think it is complemented perfectly by the happy youngster featured on the obverse. The reverse shows that coin is redeemable at the Jackson Hall grocer in Jackson, Michigan.
This “Union For Ever” coin is both a store token (for the New Jersey tailor shown on the reverse) and what is known as a ‘patriotic token’. Tom told me that tokens would be minted with patriotic, pro-Union slogans and symbols. He also mentioned that by 1864, more than 25 million tokens were in circulation, with over 7,000 varieties!
This last token isn’t actually a Civil War token, as it predates the war by over a decade. It is a California Gold Rush token- made of brass. Due to the shortage of actual gold coins in California during the Rush, these were minted to trade for gold dust, and were most commonly used for gambling! These coins are truly a piece of history, and carry a bit of what life was like during the Old West!
Be on the lookout for more interesting tales of gold and coins from out experts here at Wilshire Coin!
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