Virginia Tokens

by David E. Schenkman
Assisted by Eric R. Schena

© 2015 Virginia Numismatic Association
592 pages

ISBN 978-0-578-16759-6 (hardcover)

Price $75.00




The earliest numismatic item from Virginia is the 1714-dated Gloucester token. Little is known about this small brass piece, which depicts the Gloucester Courthouse on one side, but it is thought by some to be a possible pattern for a silver shilling. It is considered part of the colonial coin series, and is listed as such in A Guide Book of United States Coins (the “Red Book”), so it is not included herein. During the “Hard Times” era of the 1830s, tokens were issued by merchants in Norfolk and Richmond. And, a silversmith counter stamped large cents and circulated them to advertise his business. During the 1860s and 1870s several merchants used tokens. One of them, issued by a druggist in Richmond, almost certainly circulated during the Civil War. The earliest known transportation tokens from Virginia are the circa-1860s issues of the New Mechanicsville Turnpike Company. These tokens were used on a toll road between Richmond and Mechanicsville. They were followed by the issues of various horse-drawn and electric street railways, and later tokens used for fares on bridges, buses, ferries, and taxies. Transportation tokens are collected by many numismatists as a specialty. By far the greatest number of Virginia tokens are trade tokens or, as they are often called, trade checks. Most of these were issued in the period between the 1880s and the 1930s. Trade tokens usually have either a monetary denomination or some other “good for” value (for example, “good for a drink”). In various parts of the state, these tokens were referred to by names such as “checks,” “chips,” “chits,” “due bills,” “pucks,” “rabbit money,” and “scrip.” Regardless of what they were called, the function of trade tokens was usually to serve as a substitute for official currency.



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