CWT Fuld 207 Obverse

Civil War Tokens – Getting Started

Recently my blogs have been on Ancient Coins, but today I want to refocus back to another of my favorites – Civil War Tokens.

Civil War Tokens are a popular and exciting field of Exonomia

Civil War Tokens appeared in the early 1860s due to a shortage of government issued coinage.  First gold and silver vanished, then cents were hoarded. (Research the economic theory of Gresham’s Law.)

Commerce was suffering, as a result private individuals started striking small copper tokens as substitutes to cents. Eventually the government intervened and Civil War Tokens all but disappeared from circulation.

Civil War Tokens were struck between 1861 and 1865. These would mostly be struck in copper but a few were brass and still other rare ones struck in white metal. Technically speaking a Civil War Token should be between 18 mm and 25 mm.

Civil War Tokens can generally be divided into two groups: Patriotic and Store Cards.

Patriotic Tokens display political and patriotic themes with particular emphasis on the Civil War like “The Federal Union – it must and shall be preserved” or “No compromise with traitors” or even abolitionist themes like “No Slavery” … always very collectible.

Civil War Tokens

Store Cards were used by merchants to advertise their business or products.  Typically one die was a standard one, perhaps a patriotic die, or a common die provided by the die manufacturer, and the second die would be customized for the business.

Civil War Tokens CWT NY630AUCWT NY630AU reverse

These are often collected topically by theme, or by region, with some areas like NYC putting out dozens of tokens and other areas like Whitehall, NY having only one token-issuing store.

Assembling a collection of Civil War tokens is easy and relatively inexpensive.

Many dealers have pieces available.

I keep a stock at the ready, with a return privilege as well.

You can consider starting a Patriotic Collection or even a Store Card Collection of a town of your choice. Or even both. I had collected Patriotic and NYC Store Cards at one point and it provided me a great deal of pleasure.

Lastly, consider visiting the Civil War Token Society Website. I would absolutely recommend joining this wonderful organization. You’ll receive their quarterly CWTS Journal with some really amazing research and information.

Happy collecting!

Receive Updates

No spam guarantee.