Patriotic Civil War Tokens: 10 Common Designs for Your Cabinet

Posted on 3/13/2018

Patriotic Civil War tokens have over 500 different “stock” dies not relating to any specific merchant.

There are well over 10,000 varieties of Civil War tokens, which were issued from April 1861, to April of 1865. During the war, the public hoarded silver and gold coins, and by 1862, had began hoarding the small change as well. Daily commerce became difficult, and merchants were forced to find substitutes, quickly adopting small cent-size tokens for small change. Most are about the size of a typical penny, but range from 18-25mm in diameter.

Civil War tokens are generally divided into three categories: Patriotics, Store Cards, and Sutler tokens. While there are over 1,500 merchants who had tokens made with their name or business featured, tokens could also be purchased from manufacturers with universal designs. Because the cost of copper in these tokens was far less than a cent, manufacturers could make nice profits, and typically charged $9 for 1,000 tokens. By 1864, that cost had decreased to as low as $7.50 for the same quantity.

Patriotic Civil War tokens is the category of Civil War tokens that contains over 500 different “stock” dies not relating to any specific merchant. These dies were combined to form many different die-parings, and were struck in a variety of metal types. Many have a bust on the obverse, like that of the French liberty head, Indian head, or George Washington, and a slogan within a wreath on the reverse, such as “NOT ONE CENT” or “ARMY & NAVY.” Patriotics were mostly made in support of the North, but a few, like “THE WEALTH OF THE SOUTH” supported the South.

Many of these dies are easily obtained, and are relatively inexpensive, even in higher grades. They can even be purchased for as little as $20 in respectable condition. For Patriotics, there are about 2,000 varieties known, when including the various metal types for each die combination. Below is a selection of 10 common but classic designs for Patriotic Civil War tokens that should be in every serious collector’s cabinet.

10. Fuld-225/327 a, The Federal Union – Army and Navy

Fuld-225/327 a, The Federal Union - Army and Navy
Click images to enlarge

Many of the slogans engraved were strong patriotic statements, such as “NO COMPROMISE WITH TRAITORS” and “CONSTITUTION FOR EVER.” There are actually 10 different varieties of the obverse die, which are mostly combined with different “ARMY AND NAVY” reverses. These varieties are best distinguished by looking at where the “P’ in “PRESERVED,” the “I” in “IT” and the right flower align with the outer letters. One of the designs mistakenly says “BY” instead of “BE.” The above specimen is readily identified by the wider last “N” in “UNION.” The saying featured was first used by Andrew Jackson when Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina threatened to push for the secession of his state from the union.

9. Fuld-254/255 a, Money Makes the Mare Go – Knickerbocker Currency

Fuld-254/255 a, Money Makes the Mare Go – Knickerbocker Currency
Click images to enlarge

A die sinker named WM. H. Bridgens of New York is responsible for the above dies. He also manufactured the popular McClellan die (138) and the “FOR PUBLIC ACCOMODATION” die (37). The obverse features a striding man with a sack of coins spilling behind his back, with a ribbon coming from his mouth saying “GO IT BUTTONS.” This may refer to the competition between certain contractors who supplied the union during the war, which was a major controversy at the time. The phrase “MONEY MAKES THE MARE GO” is from a 16th century British nursery rhyme, and “BUTTONS” is likely a classic name for a horse, just like people name their dogs “Fifi” today.

8. Fuld-163/352 a, Union – Crossed Canons

Fuld-163/352 a, Union – Crossed Canons
Click images to enlarge

The crossed canons reverse die has always been popular with collectors, despite being one of the most common dies. The piece calls to mind the first war of 1776, the revolution that built the great American nation, and compares its significance to the “War of 1861” which will preserve it—which is a common phrase featured on other pieces. The liberty cap, a symbol of the freedom and the revolution, is present as well.

7. Fuld-127/248 a, Lincoln – OK

Fuld-127/248 a, Lincoln – OK
Click images to enlarge

With election of 1864 came many Civil War tokens featuring Abraham Lincoln and his opponent, General G.B. McClellan, who was well-loved by the army. Collectors today go crazy over anything that features Lincoln, and this piece is no different. At a Rarity-3 (501-2,000 in existence), this piece is less common than the others on this list, and also more pricy. Worn examples regularly sell for over $100, and nicer ones go for several hundred or more.

6. Fuld-209/414 a, The Flag of Our Union – Shoot Him on the Spoot

Fuld-209/414 a, The Flag of Our Union – Shoot Him on the Spoot
Click images to enlarge

There are 12 different obverse varieties for the “FLAG OF OUR UNION” tokens, which are paired with 10 different “SHOOT HIM ON THE SPOT” reverses as well as a few “ARMY AND NAVY” reverses. The one pictured above is especially sought by collectors because of the hilarious error, “SPOOT” instead of “SPOT.”

5. Fuld-189/399 a, Draped Flags – Star of David

Fuld-189/399 a, Draped Flags – Star of David
Click images to enlarge

This is another popular design among collectors, and is readily available in high grades. Jewish collectors are especially enthused because of the attractive Star of David gracing the reverse. The obverse design is attributed to Scovill Manufacturing Co. in Waterbury, CT, which was founded in 1802, and was acquired by The Gores Group in 2006. George and Melvin Fuld studied the firm’s collection of tokens, and many are well struck, despite having high relief.

4. Fuld-174/272 a, Washington Equestrian Statue – Union for Ever

Fuld-174/272 a, Washington Equestrian Statue – Union for Ever
Click images to enlarge

Also likely a Scovill product, this piece features a statue of the foremost founding father—George Washington—on horseback with his arm outstretched. There are 5 different varieties of the obverse. The statue is known as the “Virginia Washington Monument,” and located in the public square in Richmond, which was ironically the location of the inauguration of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy. The monument is 60 feet tall and the bronze statue on top weighs 18,000 pounds. It was erected in 1858 but wasn’t finished until after the conclusion of the Civil War.

3. Fuld-259/445 a, Trade and Commerce – Coppers 20 Percent Premium

Fuld-259/445 a, Trade and Commerce – Coppers 20 Percent Premium
Click images to enlarge

The Trade and Commerce token is a bit beefier than most Civil War tokens because of its 22mm (rather than the normal 19mm) diameter and generous thickness. It was issued by John Gault of New York, who was a well-known seller of encased postage stamps which also circulated at the time. Since merchants found the copper tokens more durable, they became the standard currency. Nearly all were well-struck, and many come well-preserved, and can be found in almost full-red state.

2. Fuld-136/397 a, Andrew Jackson – Serpent

Fuld-136/397 a, Andrew Jackson – Serpent
Click images to enlarge

Andrew Jackson is featured on a couple of Civil War tokens likely because of his staunch federalism and hardnose policies. The reverse is particularly provocative, featuring a serpent with “BEWARE” inscribed above. The Civil War Token Journal from winter 2004 says it’s likely a copperhead snake, and serves as a “warning to northern Confederate sympathizers to watch their step and get their act together.” However, the copperhead movement was actually a faction of Democrats in the North who opposed the war, wanting a peace settlement with the Confederates. Some of these “copperheads” were actually arrested for “declaring sympathy for the enemy” and were not considered patriotic. Therefore the snake is more likely a rattlesnake, which invokes the phrase “don’t tread on me.” The symbol dates back to colonial times, which warns people not to take advantage of Americans or they will strike.

1. Fuld-237/423 a, Monitor – Wreath & Anchor

Fuld-237/423 a, Monitor – Wreath & Anchor
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So much could be written on the Monitor, and its famous battle with Merrimac that the subject really deserves its own article in the context of numismatics. The invention of usable ironclad ships not dependent on wind power was one of the greatest advancements in naval history. The idea of rotating turrets and shells bouncing harmlessly off hulls armored with iron plates was terrifying to sailors at the time. This design has long been endeared by collectors for its beauty and historical significance—so enthusiasts can be thankful it is a common piece. An uncirculated example can still be purchased for under $200. Along with the tokens of the Monitor, many other numismatic items related to the ships and battle are catalogued in David Schenkman’s Tokens & Medals Commemorating the Battle between the Monitor and Merrimack.

Fuld-239/422 a, Monitor – Wreath & Anchor
NGC MS 64 BNClick images to enlarge

George Fuld and his son, Melvin, are largely responsible for the rise in popularity of Civil War tokens during the 1960s. Their research and published references have become the standard for the hobby. Their reference Patriotic Civil War Tokens, 5th Edition, provides the best listing for Patriotic Civil War tokens.

The value of Patriotics depends on many factors, including rarity, design, issuer, and metal type. While the majority were struck in copper, they were also made in off-metal types such as brass, silver, white metal, copper-nickel, and German-silver. A few examples were issued plated, but many Civil War tokens were also plated in 20th century, so collectors should be wary.

Because these off-metal types command a premium, the specialists at NGC will often use expensive metallurgic X-ray analysis technology to verify metal types. Because counterfeits exist, it is always safer to purchase tokens certified by NGC, which is responsible for certifying well over 15,000 Patriotics, and 25,000 Civil War Store Cards. NGC first started certifying these around 2003, and has gained a solid reputation in the exonumia community for certified tokens and medals. NGC has also collaborated with the Civil War Token Society to assist with published resources.

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