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California Tokens


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  • 2 years later...

I do stock the CA books:

 

CALIFORNIA COINERS and ASSAYERS, Owens. Wonderful reference, lists bars, tons of info. Hard-Bound 2000, 448p.

 

CALIFORNIA PIONEER FRACTIONAL GOLD, Breen/Gillio/Leonard. The long-awaited revised book on CA Gold!. Soft-Bound 2003, 264p. Detailed descriptions, Historical Notes,

 

CALIFORNIA TRADE TOKENS, Kappen. Hundreds of photos, price guide by variety, revised reprint. A massive work, with price guide for each variety. Alphabetic by merchant and city, hundreds of photographs, revised maverick index. Revised reprint. Hard-Bound 1986, 780p. Detailed descriptions,

 

CALIFORNIA TRADE TOKENS SUPPLEMENT, Kappen. Maverick index, number of tokens seen. Hard-Bound 1997, 588p. Detailed descriptions,

 

Check my web site for current prices.

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  • 3 years later...

The oldest tokens are from San Francisco although not exclusively. Counterstamped coins exist as well with the J.L. Polhemus of Sacramento being the best known. California fractional gold pieces were produced shortly after gold was found and continued until outlawed in the 1880s. Several token manufacturers (a side business of the red rubber stamp business) opened shop in SF and LA in the 1880s and 1890s. By the 1890s, they are going firms and slot machines (trade stimulators) created a voracious demand for nickel tokens.

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Thanks Bill, what I;m most curious about is how prevalent base metal tokens were as a replacement for small change. There's an indication that one the 5 and dime stores like Woolworth's opened prices dropped and nickels began to be used much more frequently.

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And in Vancouver, having US made nickel-operated vending machines was a hassle since the store would have to keep a stock of nickels in supply (since Canada used a silver 5-cent / half dime until 1921), and people kept on keeping the (US) nickels as curiosities.

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Thanks Bill, what I;m most curious about is how prevalent base metal tokens were as a replacement for small change. There's an indication that one the 5 and dime stores like Woolworth's opened prices dropped and nickels began to be used much more frequently.

 

That would be post 1900 for the most part in the West. That and its impact on tokens is not something I've really looked at myself. Trade stimulators (slot machines) certainly had an impact on token production. The machines mostly paid out in drinks and cigars (good for one drink or good for a cigar) to try to sidestep local gambling laws. Of course, nothing prevented the owner from paying cash for the tokens under the table and the machines generally had mechanisms that dropped actual nickels into the cash box and tokens into the payout box. Look at early pictures of bars and cigar stores and you wil often see one or more machines sitting on the counter. In San Francisco, it is reported that the stores made more from the machines than from actual product sales. Of course, tokens had many other business uses as well such as making sure you returned to the business where your tokens were accepted.

 

I've never studied the legal cases in detail, but the token began its demise as I generally understand it when company store tokens were deemed illegal (essentially counterfeiting). Paying your employees with company store chits or making change with company tokens helped bind the worker to the company store. It used to be tough to be employed in some parts of the country. "I owe my soul to the company store." "Another day older and deeper in debt." are records of the practice in the coal mines.

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