user_5712's Blog

06 Sep 2015

History of Civil War Tokens

Exonumia | user_5712

The Civil War caused severe shortages of coins of all denominations. Many hoarded all physical money they came into contact with: starting with the gold and working all the way down to copper-nickel cents. The paper money of the time was heavily inflated and untrustworthy, which added to the problem. When the Government issued paper money, there was nothing to back it up. They merely made a promise to one day repay the holder with real specie. By July 14th, 1863, the US was nearly 100% without coins. Trade came grinding to a halt. Merchants, businessmen, and entrepreneurs who were unable to make transactions because of the paucity of coins turned to minting Civil War Tokens.

When 19th Century Merchants saw that they would soon be jobless because of the trade halts, they realized that if the government would not issue reliable money, they would have to mint their own coins. With this realization came an amazing innovation-the Store Card. Store Cards, the first and most widely circulated type of Civil War Tokens, soon became the currency of a coin-less America. These cent sized tokens served as both a means of advertising for businesses and a method of payment. New York and Cincinnati became the headquarters for the mass production of Store cards. Millions of Store Cards poured out of these cities in the year 1863 alone! Store cards were so popular that they almost completely replaced the cent. By the time coins issued by the US Government began to make a comeback, the economy was so overrun with Store Cards that Government produced coins had to compete for circulation. Because of this, a law was passed in 1864 stating that privately minting coins for circulation was illegal.

Store Cards have been issued from a large variety of different merchants with various specialties. Some of these traders were grocers, and others sold medicine, tobacco, and alcohol. There were also many services advertised on Store Cards, such as commercial printing, educational classes, die sinking, and letter cutting. However, the merchants were not the ones that actually made these Store Cards. They simply paid for die engravers and minters to produce custom coins for distribution. One of these private minters was John Stanton. Stanton, who lived and operated in Cincinnati, was the largest producer of Store Cards. Stanton was a skilled minter who specialized in engraving tokens with an Indian Head. Along with the thousands of Store Cards he produced, Stanton also made some fascinating Patriotic Tokens. Numismatists of the time couldn’t get enough of his designs. One of his most popular series of coins depicted all of the candidates for presidency in 1860.

Store cards were not the only form of Civil War Tokens. Another type of Civil War token is the Patriotic token. Patriotic’s are very intriguing, especially because they show the opinions of many noncombatant Americans during the Civil War. Patriotic tokens were similar in size to Store Cards, but their purposes were different. These tokens were often minted for a small profit and were frequently sold to numismatists. Designs on Patriotic tokens were meant to be both attractive and meaningful. Most Patriotic tokens are from pro-union perspectives, and display slogans such as “Our Country,” “Freedom,” and “The Union Shall Be Preserved.” Also on these coins are images of Liberty, George Washington, Abe Lincoln, 19th Century Cannons, the Capitol Building, and the USS Monitor. Among these is one of the most popular varieties of Patriotic Civil War Tokens-the “DIX” Token. Featured on the obverse of this token is the Union Flag, and on the reverse an adapted quote from John Adams Dix, which reads “If Anybody Attempts to Tear It Down, Shoot Him On The Spot, DIX,” which references to the Union Flag.

When taking a look at the Civil War, a group of tradesman who are often overlooked is the Sutlers. Sutlers were the merchants that camped with the soldiers of the Union Army. They sold every grocery item from coffee to dry goods, but they also sold ink, paper, games, and other trinkets. Because it was illegal for soldiers to drink alcohol, Sutlers often tented near the edge of the camp so that they could entice civilians into coming for activities like gambling & drinking. Sutlers also had access to every soldier’s pay check, so before any soldier ever saw his money, the Sutlers would deduct all the money that a given soldier owed them. This made some Sutlers extremely unpopular at times.

As coins started to disappear in the camps, Sutlers began minting tokens, which they used to fill the gap created by coin shortages. These coins allowed trade to continue on the battlefield, and having content and supplied soldiers could have meant the difference in either winning or loosing the war. Sutler tokens are somewhat mysterious and little is known about them. Many Sutler Tokens were made from dies that were the same or very similar to those used to make Store Cards. Sutler tokens are the most expensive of the 3 types of Civil War tokens and prices range from $100-$10,000.



Level 5

I decided to read this blog though it was written 5 years ago because I am looking into purchasing a civil war token. Thanks for the information!


Level 7

He hasn't done anything since 2015. So you think he will will help you. Don't hold.your brearth! Pointing

Very cool!

It seems you have a lot of information. You should be more active.


Level 7

High 5712! Mike here. I hope you don't mind me adding to your blog. I wanted to know if your a member of the CWTS. If not and you want to join let me know. I hope you don't mind me following you. Your the only one that I met so far that knows as much as you do çoncerning token's. So I hope your not mad at me. There's a new book out written in 2015 by Q. David Bowers. It the most up to date book on tokens. Some have gone up and some went down. So if you don't have it I would consider picking it up. Well that's all for now,thanks for that ausome blog.Mike Burn

Kid Morgans

Level 4

Oh, wow! Thanks for all the info! I knew about that controversy in WWII, but I didn't know the same thing happened in the civil war!


Level 7

Hi! Mike Burn here! Great thread. Alot good information. There is one thing that's interesting if I made add to this. The reason I started collecting these tokens was simple. It was a very dark period in our history,and it showed how we as Americans made it possible to go on. These tokens also carry a rarity factor. This is based on how many of a certain token were made. For example a factor of one ment 2000 to over 5000 were made. A factor of lets say 3 ment 2000 to 501. This went higher based on how rare they were. A factor of5 ment200 to 76. Now the less they maded the more expensive they became.a factor of 7 was 20 to 11. Nine ment they made2 to 4 and 10 ment ony 1. I belong to The Civil War Token Society. I have seen some of the beautiful tokens go for fifteen to as high as eighteen thousand dollar's. There is an auction coming up at the end of the month by Mr.Steve Hayden. He has one of the best collections in the U.S. This auction has 731 tokens in it! And I don't think that's all of them. Great work I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks Mike


Level 4

That is an incredible writing on the civil war tokens. I have recently bought an Indian head Cent dated 1864 which as a counter stamp on it by G. K. Morris. Can you tell me anything about it?


Level 5



Level 4

Thank you for this ! Very interesting !


Level 6

Great blog! Very informative and interesting! Keep up the good writing! : )


Level 5

Very nice read. Thank you for sharing.


Level 4

Really nice article, interesting and informative. I am looking forward to your next post.


Level 6

Very well researched and well written. Thanks and keep it up!


Level 5

Very nice brief explanation of Civil War Tokens. This should be required reading for our YN's.


Level 5

Excellent write-up! Very informative in representing historical numismatics and commerce of the time.

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