Trivia - Civil WQar Tokens

Discussion in 'Clinker - In Memoriam' started by Clinker, Jan 21, 2007.

  1. Clinker

    Clinker Coin Collector

    Since the United States came into being many different categories of tokens have been minted. i.e. Colonial, Hard times, Civil War, Transportation, Gaming (gambling), Love. Arcade, Hacienda and State Tax Tokens. This trivia article is about Civil War Tokens. There may be upcoming articles on the others.

    Civil War Tokens are privately minted tokens made from 1862 through 1864 because of the scarcity of governmrnt-issued one cent coins.

    Cival War Tokens are divided into three types: store cards, patriotic tokens, and Sutler tokens. All three types were utilized as currency, and are differentiated by their designs. The collectible value of tokens is determined chiefly by their rarity, but, also, their composition: bronze, copper, nickel. brass, silver, rubber and wood.

    Patriotic tokens

    Patriotic Civil War tokens typically displayed a patriotic slogan or image on one or both sides. Since the majority of these tokens were minted in Union states, the slogans and images were decidedly pro-Union. Some common examples of slogans found on patriotic tokens are "The Union Must and Shall Be Preserved," "Union For Ever," and "Old Glory". Some of the images found on patriotic tokens were the flag of the United States, a 19th-century cannon, and the USS Monitor.

    Among the most well-known varieties of patriotic tokens are the so-called "Dix tokens." They are named for John Adams Dix, who served as Secretary of the Treasury in 1861. In a letter from Dix to a revenue cutter captain, Lieutenant Caldwell, he orders Caldwell to relieve another cutter captain of his command for refusing an order to transfer from New Orleans to New York. The letter ends with the following sentence: "If any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot."" The quote found its way to a number of patriotic tokens, albeit with a slightly modified wording ("haul down" is usually replaced by "tear it down").
    Here's an example of a Dix token:

    Store cards

    Civil War store cards differ from patriotic tokens in that one or both sides displays the name and/or location of a privately owned business. Businesses that could afford it had two custom dies made, with both advertising the business. Otherwise, only one side displayed the business's information.
    Here's a store card example:

    Here's more:

    Sutler tokens

    Sutler tokens are similar to store cards. Rather than listing the name of a private business, however, these tokens bore the name of a particular army unit (usually a regiment) and the name of the sutler who conducted transactions with the regiment. Of the three types of Civil War tokens, sutler tokens are by far the rarest.

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  3. cwtokenman

    cwtokenman Coin Hoarder

    Nice post clinker! Hopefully you will not mind my adding a bit of additional information.

    The Civil War was one of two periods of American history that saw a tremendous need for private (token) coinage because of the reigning authority's inability to provide a circulating metallic medium of exchange sufficient for the needs of commerce. The other period was the Colonial/Early Republican era.

    The first significant wave of Civil War tokens appeared in late 1862, but there are a handful that were issued in 1860 & 1861, as well as 1865. The uncertainty of the outcome of the war lead to widespread hoarding of hard money, until there were virtually no metallic coins of any denomination in circulation. Since even a cent had considerable value at the time, coins were essential for conducting business. Merchants were forced to find alternate means of exchange. To illustrate, the mint had increased production of cents for several months, making $1000 to $2000 worth of cents per day and was sending a large portion of this unprecedented production to New York City, yet at the end of September, 1862, all of the banks in the state of New York (the most prosperous state in the nation) had only $943 in cents total. The banks were begging for more. By March, 1863, a 20 % premium was being paid for cents, which was the most commonly used denomination in commerce.

    Try to imagine such a situation and the hardships that would be created. I just returned from Guatemala a few days ago, and had a taste of large scale money problems there (among many others). The government has not printed any new money for a while. Banks are going out of business. Funds are being paid on private account withdrawals at a rate of only 20%. ATMs are empty. While there are 5 different centavo denominations for the quetzel, they are seldom seen. I have not experienced anything like that in the U.S.

    In addition to the small denomination government paper money called shinplasters, fractional currency was also issued by individual merchants in large quantities. Some merchants issued cardboard scrip. Postage stamps were also used - first with no protection (resulting in short life, as well as not easily used during foul weather - secondly stamps were placed in waxed envelopes with the value written on the outside of the envelope, but it did not take long for some stamps to begin disappearing from the envelopes - third came the encased postage stamps where the stamp was encased in a metallic housing with a mica window to enable viewing of the stamp's denomination. The encased stamps worked well, but were expensive to the merchant as the full price of the stamp had to be paid as well as paying for the encasement of the stamp, but the value was only that of the stamp. A price many merchants were willing to pay to be able to conduct business. Production of encased postage stamp was greatly reduced when the Post Office Department ordered local post offices to stop selling stamps for use as currency after the high stamp sales of July and August, 1862 (stamps could not be produced fast enough to meet demand, and many post offices were frequently "out of stamps").

    Then along comes the Civil War token, a cost effective substitute for the cent. Patriotic tokens cost a merchant about $4.00 per thousand, and close to face value for the custom store cards. Store cards had the advantage of having the advertising aspect, as well as a customer was more likely to return to that merchant's store when the time came to spend his token. Either type of token was beneficial to the merchant. Acceptance of this token was widespread, even to the extent that the government changed the U.S. cent to a similar size and composition mimicking that of cwts in 1864.

    It is estimated that between 25 to 50 million Civil War tokens were issued, although some think that there may have been closer to 100 million. It is commonly held that somewhere around 1 million of those are still in existence. Considering that a few merchants such as Oliver Boutwell, Gustav Lindenmueller (who had issued a million tokens himself), and Robinson & Ballou may make up as much as 20% of the market population of store cards, one can see why most of the rest of the 12,000+ varieties of cwts are rather scarce.

    I have rambled on for quite a while, but one more point I would like to bring out is that it is commonly believed that cwts are the reason behind the passage of laws (by an act of Congress in 1864) forbidding the private issue of money. It is said that the Third Avenue Railroad of New York approached Gustavus Lindenmueller about redemption of a large number of his tokens, which he laughingly refused to do. The railroad had no redress, but likely bent the ears of their political allies concerning their situation, and likely pushed for legislation to prevent such a situation from occurring again.

    I feel that cwts are extremely interesting, provide an opportunity to purchase true rarities for small amounts of money (I have purchased cwts with 5-10 known for under $10), as well as afford opportunity to discover new varieties.
  4. Clinker

    Clinker Coin Collector


    Thanks for the additional iformation.

  5. Treashunt

    Treashunt The Other Frank

    Clinker & CW Tokenman:
    Thanks to both of you for great info.
  6. acanthite

    acanthite ALIIS DIVES

    Thanks to you both as well. I knew very little about these tokens.
  7. De Orc

    De Orc Well-Known Member

    Thanks guys that was not only a good read but very informative as well :D

    De Orc :D
  8. Clinker

    Clinker Coin Collector

    acanthite, de Orc, and others.......Wooden nickel trivia coming!

  9. Aidan Work

    Aidan Work New Member

    That was very interesting reading,Clinker.

  10. Clinker

    Clinker Coin Collector


    May have some interesting info on Wooden Nickels tomorrow or Saturday.

  11. Krasnaya Vityaz

    Krasnaya Vityaz Always Right

    Wow! Latin America country not print more money to get country out of debt? How that possible?

    Just like USA now, Latin American countries have history of sending all capital out of country and not reinvest inside the country. Now USA catch this disease, and Treasury just print more money like it's neighbor countries so USA $ lose value.
  12. Jason Hoffpauir

    Jason Hoffpauir World Coin Collector

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