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In the study of numismatics, token coins or trade tokens are coin-like objects used instead of coins. The field of tokens is part of exonumia and token coins are token money. Tokens either have a denomination shown or implied by size, color or shape. In their purest form, currency tokens issued by a company crossed the boundary of merely being “trade” tokens when they were sanctioned by the local government authority. This was sometimes a measure resulting from a severe shortage of money or the government’s inability to issue its own coinage. In effect, the organization behind the tokens became the regional bank. A classic example of this is the Strachan and Co trade tokens of East Griqualand in South Africa which were used as currency by the indigenous people in the region from 1874.
Their initial success resulted from the scarcity of small change in this remote region from that time. Similarly, in times of high inflation, tokens have sometimes taken on a currency role. New York City Subway tokens were also accepted sometimes in trade, or even in parking meters, since they had a set value. A brothel token from the Red Dog Saloon. Coin-like objects from the Roman Empire called spintria have been interpreted as a form of early tokens. Their functions are not known from written history, but they appear to have been brothel tokens or possibly gaming tokens. Medieval English monasteries issued tokens to pay for services from outsiders.
These tokens circulated in nearby villages where they were called “Abbot’s money. Also, counters called jetons were used as small change without official blessing. From the 17th to the early 19th century in the British Isles and North America, tokens were commonly issued by merchants in times of acute shortage of coins of the state to enable trading activities to proceed. The token was in effect a pledge redeemable in goods but not necessarily for currency. In England, the production of copper farthings was permitted by royal licence in the first few decades of the 17th century, but production ceased during the English Civil War and a great shortage of small change resulted.
These tokens were most commonly made of copper or brass, but pewter, lead and occasionally leather tokens are also found. Most such tokens indicate the name of their issuer, which might either be his or her full name or initials. Where initials were provided, it was common practice to provide three—one for the surname, and the other two for the first names of husband and wife. Tokens would also normally indicate the merchant establishment concerned, either by name or by picture. Most were round, but they are also found in square, heart or octagonal shapes.
Thousands of towns and merchants issued these tokens between 1648 and 1672, when official production of farthings resumed, and private production was suppressed. Another period of coin shortage occurred in the late 18th century, when the British Royal Mint almost ceased production. Merchants once again produced tokens, but they were now machine made and typically larger than their 17th century predecessors, with values of a halfpenny or more. Show World Center token, New York City, c. These were issued by merchants in payment for goods with the agreement that they would be redeemed in goods to an equivalent value at the merchants’ own outlets.