"Knowledge of Civil War Tokens"
Extracted from The Civil War Token Journal, Volume 14 Number 4.
There are essentially six basic types of knowledge which a collector of or dealer in Civil war Tokens can utilize in connection with our hobby. These six types of knowledge can be categorized as follows: (1) attribution, (2) grading, (3) rarity, (4) origin, (5) demand and supply and (6) valuation. Let's examine each of these in turn.
As anyone who has wrestled with attribution of
Civil War Tokens (CWTs) well knows, it takes more than the possession of
a standard reference work on the subject to be able to accurately attribute
them. This is especially true in the case of patriotics. Only
by working with such a reference over a period of time can one accumulate
the ease of recognition of what variations to look for in an expeditious
manner. This accumulation of knowledge takes patience and perhaps
best explains why, at least to date, the store cards have generally been
more popular among collectors that the patriotics.
Accurate attribution of CWTs also entails knowledge of counterfeits. Doug Watson's excellent article in Volume 3, Number 2 provides a useful checklist of known cast varieties together with an analysis of what to look for in distinguishing these pieces. It is advisable not only to be familiar with Doug's article but also to study several of these cast counterfeits first hand so as to gain familiarity with this breed of replica.
Grading of U.S. coins is a picnic relative to
the accurate grading of CWTs. A number of factors contribute to this
state of affairs.
First, more than two dozen different die sinking firms manufactured CWTs, and no single standard of workmanship prevailed. For example, alloys, plantchet specifications, depth of field of dies, and striking equipment varied substantially. As a result, uncirculated specimens of certain die sinkers, at least superficially, look very much like very fine specimens struck by other firms.
Second, many, many varieties of CWTs were struck - often after the Civil War - from worn or rusted dies. Uncirculated specimens of these strikes often are far less aesthetically attractive than extra fine specimens of CWTs struck to be used as a medium of exchange.
Any one CWT has several rarities associated with it. These include the rarities of each of the dies used in striking the piece; the rarity of the merchant, the rarity of the town, and the rarity of the state in the case of storecards; and the rarity of the particular variety (muling, metal, and edge detail). Increasingly, collectors of CWTs are recognizing that a specimen may be relatively common in terms of its town rarity, but may be very rare in terms of the scarcity of one of its dies.
The real measure of a collector's knowledge of the specimens in him or her collection is an understanding and appreciation of the origins of those pieces. For example, for what proportion of the specimens in your collection can you answer the following questions:
Collectors generally are much less concerned than are dealers with demand - how many collectors are looking for a certain variety and how much each is willing to pay for it - and supply - how many specimens of a particular variety are available for sale and potentially could become available and at what price. Dealers who conduct mail bid auctions are in an excellent position to develop a feel for the depth of demand for certain varieties of CWTs through their accumulated knowledge of the number and magnitude of bids for those varieties. Dealers who hold fixed price sales also obtain some feel for the depth of demand (at least at their price) by the number of orders received for a certain variety.
To date, the best measure of retail value for
a specific variety of CWT has been the current price realized for that
variety in a specified grade at a well publicized and unrestricted public
auction. However, the Garrett Collection sale of Hard Times tokens
raised serious questions regarding the adequacy of that measure.
In that auction, it appears that a number of bidders were making record breaking bids not just for the Hard Times tokens, but for the tokens together with their envelopes which had the name of Garrett and Lyman Low associated with them. On the other hand, that sale had a significant upward impact on the prices of non-Garrett Hard Times tokens which have sold since the Garrett auction.
Although each of these basic types of knowledge together with their current auction results should have a major bearing on the valuation of any given CWT, frequently only attribution, grade, variety rarity, and recent auction results are used as the principal determinates of retail (or wholesale) value in transactions. For example, sometimes when a collector sells their prized collections of CWTs, they lack an appreciation of the forces of demand and supply at work in the marketplace. Although these collectors cannot hope to equal the feel for these forces which some dealers have painstakingly acquired, they can, by shopping around, develop a feel for the magnitude of dealer demand for their material.
More importantly, when many collectors buy CWTs, the prices they pay for certain varieties reflect a gross lack of knowledge of the origins of those varieties. Too often high rarity, per se, is held to be synonymous with high retail value. Little though apparently is given to consideration of whether the piece was struck to be used as a medium of exchange and is a valid historical document, or whether it was struck for speculation and is devoid of historical merit.
Why collect or invest in varieties of CWTs whose only claim to worth
is their high rarity? One might just as logically collect the offal
of some endangered species. Regardless of rarity, offal is offal.
|Winter 2016||A Reminiscence|
|Winter 2016||My First Sulter Token|
|Spring 2016||Protesting Union Civil War Policies|
|Winter 2015||Slave Owner Issued Civil War Tokens|
|Fall 2014||Hill the Barber & African American Store Card Issuers|
|Fall 2014||Gustavus Lindenmueller: The Myth, The Man, The Mystery|
|Apr. 2004||Henry Varwig - OH165GD|
|Mar. 2004||Dating Mr. Sayre's Tokens|
|Feb. 2000||Knowledge of Civil War Tokens|
|Jan. 2000||Ohio 710A|
|Dec. 1999||Speculations About Yankee Robinson|
|Nov. 1999||Hussey's Private Message Post|
|Oct. 1999||The Great Central Fair|
|Sep. 1999||Wm. S. Wilcox of Adrian, Michigan|
|Aug. 1999||Grading Isn't Really a Monster|
|July 1999||The 1860 Presidential Campaign Medalets|
|June 1999||The Other Store Cards of Central New York|
|May 1999||George McClellan - The Peace Maker?|
|Apr. 1999||Sutler Tokens at Gettysburg|
|Mar. 1999||More on the Monitor and Merrimac|
|Feb. 1999||Civil War Token Mini-Set -- General Franz Sigel|
|Jan. 1999||Die Sinker Errors on Civil War Tokens|
|Dec. 1998||The Abraham Lincoln Mini-set|
|Nov. 1998||Civil War Token Errors|