By Q. David Bowers – Stack’s Bowers ……
Welcome to our offering of Civil War store cards–a presentation of scarce, rare, and unique coins–including many pieces that are not represented in major collections (such as the marvelous holding of the American Numismatic Society). As mentioned in the descriptions, “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” is a phrase that can be repeated many times! The same goes for “Unique–the only known specimen”. Many pieces offered here are from the Q. David Bowers Collection and beyond the elements of rarity, nearly all are Mint State!
But first, a bit of background. A primer, so to speak:
During the Civil War, especially in 1862 and 1863, there was a shortage of small circulating change. Die sinkers in Cincinnati (in particular), New York, Chicago, Boston, and elsewhere seized the opportunity to create tokens, mostly the size of a one-cent piece, divided into two categories: store cards and patriotic pieces — in a way successors to the arrangement of 1832-1844 Hard Times tokens.
The new third edition of U.S. Civil War Store Cards, issued by the Civil War Token Society, is a “must read” for anyone with a combined intellectual curiosity and an interest in history and tokens. It tells the progress of collecting such pieces, which actually began during the Civil War itself. Numismatic interest has never stopped, and today in 2017 the field remains dynamic. This can be said for specialized series: Colonial coins, early copper coins, federal silver by die varieties. Many of these series offer the opportunity to carefully collect over a long period of time. Most coins, including Civil War tokens, are relatively inexpensive (our present auction listing being an exception!). A basic collection of hundreds of different Civil War merchants can be assembled from under $100 per coin for Mint State, through $500 to $1,000 or so. Great rarities are few and far between (again, the present sale is an exception).
As the years progressed, issues of the American Journal of Numismatics (launched in 1866), The Numismatist, and other publications ran lists and feature articles on Civil War tokens. It may be interesting for you to learn that the first issues of the American Journal of Numismatics featured these tokens, nicknamed “copperheads“, and set the stage for interest and research on them. Presented was a study of Rhode Island store cards and their rarity.
In 1925 George Hetrich and Julius Guttag published an impressive book listing such tokens by HG numbers. These remained in effect until the second half of the century, when the father and son team of Melvin and George Fuld jumped into the fray, reorganized the listings completely, and created Fuld numbers for store cards and political tokens.
For the various Civil War tokens letters were given for metals, such as “a” for copper, “b” for brass, and so on, including “f” for silver. By this system, a political token combining dies 360 and 436, struck in copper, is designated as 360/436a. Some patriotic tokens, such as those depicting the four presidential candidates of 1860, could just as well be called medalets or small medals. For that matter, these particular pieces were made before the Civil War. As with many numismatic categories, the definition of Civil War token is flexible.
Civil War store cards, or advertising tokens, were arranged differently – by state, then a number representing the city, followed by a letter representing a merchant within that city, then a number representing the specific die combination, then a letter for the metal (the same as used for patriotic tokens). As an illustration take the first token in the listing below, issued by J.L. Keiningham of Lexington, Kentucky. It is described as KY-480A-1a. KY refers to the state. 480 is the number that George and Melvin Fuld assigned to the city of Lexington. Other towns have different numbers, widely spaced so a new town can be added if an unpublished token is found. This makes it easy to sort the towns in alphabetical order. The A in 480A refers to the first merchant in the town, Keiningham. 1a designates the first variety, and “a” indicates it is in copper.
Another example is the token we offer of Isaac W. Blain, NY-630G-2b. It is from New York City, which is town/city number 630 in the Fuld listing. There were many issuers of tokens in NYC, and Blain was assigned the letter G, or the seventh merchant alphabetically. 2 refers to this being the second variety issued by Blain, and “b” indicates it is struck in brass.
Within numismatics there are several popular rarity scales, with the Sheldon Scale and the Universal Rarity Scale being the most widely used. Civil War token have their own scale as devised by George and Melvin Fuld:
Civil War Token Rarity Scale
- R-1: More than 5,000 estimated to exist
- R-2: 2,000 to 4,999
- R-3: 500 to 1,999
- R-4: 200 to 499
- R-5: Scarce: between 75 and 200
- R-6: Very Scarce: between 20 and 75
- R-7: Rare: between 10 and 20
- R-8: Very Rare: between 5 and 10
- R-9: Extremely Rare: between 2 and 5
- R-10: Unique: only 1
In 2013, Whitman Publishing issued a new book on the series by Q. David Bowers, A Guide Book of Civil War Tokens—Patriotic Tokens and Store Cards 1861-1865: A History and Price Guide to Major Types. As was the later book on Hard Times tokens this was a best seller. It was so successful that the edition was reprinted. More comprehensive, and completely illustrated, is the third edition of U.S. Civil War Store Cards mentioned above.
We have invited our long-time friend Susan Trask, editor of the Civil War Token Journal, to tell about the Civil War Token Society. Incidentally, Christine Karstedt of our staff is a member of the Board of Directors.
The Civil War Token Society
By Susan Trask …..
As editor of the Civil War Token Journal I get to see first hand how much people enjoy collecting and researching Civil War tokens. Published quarterly, the articles within are informative, and entertaining —showing how almost every token has a story to tell, a mystery to unleash.
I invite you to request a free copy of the journal. Send a request to Susan Trask, P.O. Box 2053, Sisters, OR 97759 or email me at [email protected]. For information on becoming a member of the Civil War Token Society please visit our website at www.CWTsociety.org.
And, if you are planning on attending the American Numismatic Association (ANA) World’s Fair of Money convention in August in Denver, be sure to make room in your schedule for an exciting Money Talks symposium. “Ask the Experts” will feature an all-star panel of David Schenkman, Q. David Bowers, Bill Hyder [Oh he of the amazing beard. —CoinWeek], Steve Hayden and Neil Musante representing the Token and Medal Society (TAMS), Civil War Token Society, and Medal Collectors of America. Moderated by yours truly, this promises to shed some light on the best-kept secrets of tokens and medals! Join us on August 3 at 3:00 PM. And be sure to say hello and introduce yourself!