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Friday, May 31, 2013

Silver & Gold Coin Hoarding in Civil War results in private tokens

By Taylor Webb

Civil War-era coins sometimes have huge price tags associated with them. But there is one type of Civil War numismatic item that can be bought and collected in all price ranges. It is Civil War tokens.

Civil War tokens were tokens that were privately minted and distributed during the war in America, mainly in Northeastern and Midwestern parts of the country.

They were made because of the lack of coins in commerce, because the public hoarded silver and gold, and eventually copper coins. This made business difficult, so private individuals filled the void with private tokens.

Even though the United States made coins, they were all taken out of circulation as soon as they were released.

Civil War tokens were all privately minted and not backed by the government. They are found in a variety of compositions, such as copper, copper-nickel, German silver, zinc, silver and even rubber.

The United States actually went as far as to ban them on April 22, 1864. There are three main types of them: storecards, patriotics and sutler tokens. They first appeared in fall of 1862, by H.A. Ratterman in Cincinnati, Ohio. By 1864, there was some 25 million in commerce.

Patriotics are tokens that display an emblem or slogan that is patriotic. These are mostly, if not all pro-Union.

Storecards are tokens that were made by merchants, using one or both sides to promote their business. They can sometimes be found with addresses of the business.

Sutler tokens are similar to storecards, but they display a military regiment, or sutler in that unit. A sutler is somebody who acts as the general store for a military unit where people could get provisions, etc. These are by far the rarest of the three.

The rarity, and sometimes the price, is set on a rarity of R-1 to R-10, with R-10 being the rarest. Civil War tokens offer a great amount of value for the money. The Civil War Token Society is a society dedicated to CWTs. You can join at

This was written by Taylor Webb, 13, a Young Numismatist from Fremont, Calif., who has collected since he was 8. Viewpoint is a forum for the expression of opinion on a variety of numismatic subjects. To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Send email to