Encased Postage Stamp

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.

Encased postage stamp, obverse

Encased postage stamp, reverse

Well Worn 1795 Cent

This one is well worn, but it’s a beauty. I like to collect coins by type, and this is the first large cent from the early Liberty Cap series. The US Mint formed in 1792, only a few years before this early piece was made.

Obverse of 1795 large cent

Reverse of 1795 large cent


Illinois Centennial Half Dollar

I had never been to the Beaverton Coin and Currency shop and went the other day. I’m glad I did. The owner was very friendly and helpful. He pulled out this commemorative half dollar from his back room stash. It’s in nice condition.

My camera skills are still pretty poor. The images are a little blurry. I have not mastered the depth of field yet. I found a used macro lens for my Nikon D40, so perhaps that will help.

Illinois Centennial, obverse

The reverse comes from the great seal of the state of Illinois. The reverse has a busy design, but I like the eagle and I like image of Lincoln on the obverse.

Illinois Centennial, reverse

A Civil War Token

During the US Civil War, the country did not have enough federal coinage to circulate freely. With the fears of the war, Americans hoarded their coins, leaving fewer coins for day-to-day trade.

To combat the shortages, private companies and individuals minted their own tokens to circulate like coins. The tokens were about the same size and weight as the US one cent.

Some of these tokens portrayed patriotic themes, while others displayed advertisements for the merchants who produced them. The tokens traded freely alongside federal coins.

This token from 1863 is in average circulated condition. It shows signs of pitting on the obverse. It features the head of Lady Liberty and “Army & Navy” on the reverse. It is a common piece.

Civil War Token, obverse

Civil War Token, reverse

Willamette Coin Club / PNNA Show in Portland

The WCC / PNNA Fall show in Portland was held this weekend. I attended for a few hours on Sunday and saw a good selection of coins, tokens and currency. The crowd was light. Folks from the Coin Cottage said the crowd was much heavier on Saturday. By noon, some dealers were already packing up and heading home. I had to leave then, too.

I purchased a handsome 1920 Maine centennial half dollar in uncirculated condition to add to my commemorative coin set.

Maine Centennial (obverse) Maine Centennial (reverse)

From other dealers, I also found three Winged Liberty Head dimes for my year and mint set and two modern commemoratives: a 1986 Statue of Liberty Centennial proof dollar and a 1991 Mt. Rushmore Golden Anniversary proof dollar. These two were priced right at just a couple of dollars over silver melt price (no box or COA included).

US Type Set

A type set is a coin collection with one example of each major type or variety in a series. For instance, a type set of US coins would generally include one example of a Lincoln cent with the memorial back and another example with the wheat ears reverse.

My type set collection is of major US coinage from 1800. I store the collection in the “United States Type” Dansco album.


Tokens are not coins. Coins are issued by the federal government. Tokens are privately minted. I’ll confuse the two terms here and often use the word coins to refer to both.

Tokens sometimes traded like currency and coins, especially when federal coinage was scarce or being hoarded. This was the case during the “hard times” of the 1830s and the early period of the Civil War. I am primary interested in the satirical and political tokens of the Hard Times era and the patriotic tokens of the Civil War.