Civil War Storecards & Patriotic Tokens


Sep 30, 2021
Quickly soon after secession and the outbreak of the CW, US coinage began disappearing from circulation. Citizenry began to hoard their holdings of gold, then silver, and then finally even copper pieces.

This created a significant challenge for storekeepers and merchants. Without sufficient low-denomination copper and copper-alloy coinage in circulation, merchants and other purveyors found themselves challenged to conduct everyday commerce.

Several workarounds were initially tried. Postage stamps were traded, but these quickly soon proved too fragile, even with encapsulation. The U.S. government printed 'fractional currency.' However, these fractionals proved unpopular given the public distrust of paper money.

Merchants took matters into their own hands, and soon began having small-cent-sized tokens produced by private engravers and mints. Most of these were produced for northern merchants as engravers and die-sinkers were located in northern cities. The public trusted these tokens more than paper or postage stamps: they were durable, possessed intrinsic value, and could be freely exchangeable among all merchants regardless whether a specific merchant was identified on the token given their intrinsic value. (Given that most mints and merchants were northerly, most CW tokens reflect pro-Union sentiments. However, there are of course examples of pro-South (or States' Rights) emissions as well.

Below are several examples of both storecards, contemporaneous political, and patriotic civil war tokens. Storecards differentiated between patriotics in that specific merchants (although interchangeable) were readily identified on each token. Patriotics, on the other hand, were struck with generic dies whose merchant issuers could not be readily ascertained. Contemporaneous Political were a hodgpodge of Storecards or Political. Some merchants expressed their support of particular candidates via the reverse strikes of their storecards. Patriotics, while ambiguous as to merchant-issuer, were also used to convey particular political support/messages.

Father and son George and Melvin Fuld made the first comprehensive attempt to catalog all known surviving Civil War tokens starting in the 1960s. Hence, civil war tokens, either storecards or patriotics, are identified by their Fuld number. Rarity ratings were also estimated by the father and son team. As the years have progressed, most especially in the internet age, rarity values have become significantly more accurate.

Given their durability and equal size as regular small cent Federal coinage, it was not unusual to encounter civil war tokens in circulation decades after the war ended. After all, given the thousands of varieties struck over the ensuing war years, millions of these civil war tokens were created, engraved, struck and issued. In fact, many dies were repurposed after the war for later private token-coinage issues by merchants. Despite the Coinage Act of 1856, and later legislation thereafter, private token coinage continued being produced, albeit not specifically Civil War tokens per se.

A.X. Packard
16th-19th Century Numismatist
"The information posted herein does not necessarily reflect the official position or personal opinion of A.X. Packard, but is an attempt to present historical facts as best as possible. Any post made or content provided by A.X. Packard is not intended to malign anyone or anything whatsoever."

All images copyright A.X. Packard, Re-use prohibited without prior written permission.

Patriotic Example
Fuld Obverse 35 / Reverse 265. "a" denotes copper planchet composition. Rarity R-4 (201-500 estimated to survive to present-day, as of 2014)

Political Card Example
John Bell [Presidential Candidate] Fuld Obverse 509 / Reverse 510A. "f" denotes silver metal composition. Rarity R-9 (2-4 estimated to survive to present day, as of 2018). Value 1-cent.

Storecard Example
City of New York, Norwich, Connecticut, Ferry, Fuld Number CT630Q-1a, Rarity -1. Rarity R-1 (5000+ estimate to survive to present date, as of 2014). Value 1-cent.

Reissued Trade Card
Charles Keinstuber, Small Machinery, Wisconsin, clashed reverse die, Brass, Fuld WI510V-1a, 1864. Value 1-cent. Re-used dies in 1867 using white metal., revised reverse.

1. U.S. Civil War Cards, George & Melvin Fuld, Civil War Token Society, (c) 2014
2. Patriotic Civil War Tokens, George & Melvin Fuld, Civil War Token Society (c) 2018
3. The Atwood-Coffee Catalogue of US and Canadian Transportation Tokens, 6th Edition, American Vecturist Association
4. U.S. Tokens 1700-1900, 4th Edition, Russell Rulau, Krause Publications, (c)2004
5. A Catalogue of US Store Cards or Merchant Tokens, Donald Miller, (c)1962

Fuld-35-265a-Coronet Facing Left-TheUnion-Combined.jpg




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Forum Host
Regtl. Quartermaster Shiloh 2020
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
May 7, 2016
Those are nice ones. I have dug several in yankee camps and some of the rarest ones are the sutlers tokens.