Private Tokens And The Regulation Of Coins

Private tokens were  first seen in the early 1860s.
In 1862, many Americans, especially in the Midwestern and Northern states began responding to the hoarding of gold, silver, and nickel by using private minters.
Private tokens were made locally. Since there was no real regulation on the use of other coinage outside that of the United States Mint, the storekeepers and businesses began accepting these bronze coins.
Private tokens were used until the end of the war. It is thought that there were over 25,000,000 of these one cent private coins minted by 1864.

Private Tokens & The Coinage Act of 1864

One Cent Private Token
One Cent Private Token

The minting of private tokens – or coins –  ended with the passing of the Coinage Act of 1864. This stopped the manufacture of one and two cent small tokens. The private tokens had been being used in place of those coins originating from the Philadelphia Mint.

A further amendment passed a few months later made it illegal to use private tokens as currency. (Although coal companies in remote regions of West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky used privately minted “scrip” to pay miners as late as the 1950s. Scrip was used only at the coal company’s own store. Read Coal Company Scrip )

It was not against the law to own them however, and many of them remain in coin collections passed down through generations.
Although Private tokens are highly collectible. Even though they were used for a short period in our history more than 150 years ago they are not considered to be rare. That’s good news for collectors!

Limited Production and Civil War Era Hoarding

One thing that was noted when the private coins were made was that the weight was much easier to carry.
This led to the Indian Head Cent switching to a mostly copper composition, also known as bronze.

Sutler Token
Sutler Token

This brought the end to the nickel cent, also known as the “white” cent due to its silver-white color.
Because of their limited production as well as their significance to the Civil War hoarding, these coins are considered highly collectible.
Pre-Revolutionary War Private Token
Pre-Revolutionary War Private Token

Written by Angela Sangster and David Slone, Copyright 2011