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Africana Museum define "What is a token coin"

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Among the Africana Museum’s excellent historical research works is the book written by the acclaimed researcher E J Maynard. The book “Tokens of Southern Africa in Africana Museum” was written in 1966 and is a rare bible for numismatists. I am fortunate to own a hardcopy edition. Transcribed below is the Preface written by Anna Smith, the Director of the Africana Museum. (Highlights added by me):


Mrs E J Maynard, a member of the Johannesburg Public Library staff, has listed the tokens in the Africana Museum Collection and has added some specimens from the private collection of Dr Isidore Kaplan, a member of the Africana Museum Advisory Committee.


Because the museum has collected these tokens for more than thirty years, it is believed that the collection is sufficiently representative to justify a catalogue of this nature, even though the collection is known to be incomplete, and the information sketchy in some respects. The users of this catalogue are asked to inform the Museum of additional South African tokens and to supply fresh information, particularly on those not identified.


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a token is “a stamped piece of metal, often having the general appearance of a coin, issued as a medium of exchange by a private person or company, who engage to take it back at a nominal value, giving goods or legal currency for it. The definition applies to the true token; but there are others which, although not, strictly speaking, substitute for coins of the realm, are issued by private persons as advertising mediums, bar or bottle tokens, as discount on purchases, for use in amusement machines, etc. All tokens have an advertisement value; so these have been included in this catalogue. In an attempt to avoid straining the definition too far, passes of all kinds, dog licences and Masonic pieces have not been included. It is well to add here that South African tokens are not always of metal – celluloid, bakelite and plastic are frequently used.


In England from the reign of Queen Elizabeth I until 1813, the country suffered recurring periods when the shortage of small change was acute; and, as a result, the British Isles are rich in token currency, most of it beautifully designed and executed. South Africa, on the other hand was a late starter in this shortage of small change. The Cape and the Orange Free State seem to have been the first to do something to overcome the shortage of small change. The first generally accepted tokens appeared about 1860, well designed, of metal and usually struck in England. Over the years tradesmen and municipalities throughout Southern Africa used token money. After Union (1910), this necessity fell away with the establishment of a branch of the Royal Mint in Pretoria and the manufacture of sufficient coins of small denominations. But the token habit continued, especially in the country districts, in the mining compounds, on the trams; and tokens are still popular even today with big dairy combines in various parts of the country.


There is a certain amount of controversy about the series of pieces issued for Griquatown, ostensibly by the London Missionary Society in 1815-16. Are they legal tender or tokens issued by a private body? As long as there is a difference of opinion, it is as well to include the series in such a list as this. Perhaps they are South Africa’s earliest tokens.


The extract above raises two very important clarifications.


First, what is a token coin. A token coin does NOT include REPLICAS, BADGES, LICENCES, WEIGHTS, MEDALS etc.


Second, confirmation from a totally unrelated but knowledgeable source that the Griquatown coins are not currency but token coins.


Kind regards


Scott Balson

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