Throwback Thursday: Tokens in the John Martin Smith Collection

Willennar Genealogy Center’s collection is full of Throwback Thursday potential, so let’s get our #TBT on!

Tokens have been issued and used throughout DeKalb County history for various reasons. Today, let’s take a look at some of these coins.

Civil War Tokens

So-called “Civil War tokens” came about due to the high inflation resulting from the Civil War. Fearing the decline of U. S. currency, many Americans hoarded their silver and gold coins, a reaction which created problems for commercial trade. In response, local merchants minted these tokens, which were treated locally as cash.

Trade Tokens

From the 1920s to the 1960s, saloons, billiard parlors, and merchants issued trade tokens to customers. They had no intrinsic value and often had a hole in the center to make them easily distinguishable from U. S. currency. These tokens could be exchanged for cigars, pop, candy, etc., but were also used to get around Indiana’s gambling laws—players could exchange cash for tokens before joining a game, and since tokens weren’t legal tender, using them in lieu of cash technically didn’t constitute gambling.

Misc. Tokens

Other tokens weren’t meant for trading. This wooden nickel served solely as advertising and these tokens from Butler and Garrett both commemorate special occasions.

See more by clicking here and searching for “token.”

About Jenny

I am the Associate Director of Eckhart Public Library. My office is in the Administrative Annex, but I can often be found roaming the Eckhart Public Library Campus, performing acts of librarianship in every department! I love to read and learn about history. I'm also a huge fan of movies, TV and pop culture in general, and I love to read books of all types. Currently, I'm working my way around the romance section, with some historical fiction and graphic novels thrown in for variety! But you never know what I'm going to pick up next.
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