This encased postage stamp token was used during the American Civil War. American entrepreneur John Gault created these tokens and sold them for $0.02 each over the price of the postage stamp, with the buyer’s advertisement on the reverse. During the war, the federal government printed paper currency to help finance the war effort. People did not trust the printed currency and hoarded coinage, including copper cents. This produced a shortage of copper coinage for day-to-day transactions.
People started using postage stamps for small transactions, but the stamps did not withstand the rigors of daily commerce. Gault designed these tokens with mica covering the stamp to protect them for regular trade. Perhaps as many 750,000 pieces were made and sold, but only around 5,000 survive today.