CWTS Article of the Month!

December 1998

The Abraham Lincoln Mini-set

by Bill Jones
Extracted from The Civil War Token Journal Volume 30, Number 3.

    Although Abraham Lincoln's supporters issued many medalets during his two presodential campaigns, only 15 Lincoln designs have been included among the CWTs. All of these tokens are scarce, and assembling even a modest collection of five or six varieties in an accomplishment.

    Abraham Lincoln was born on Febreary 12, 1809 near Hadgenville, Kentucky. Seven years later his family moved to Indiana, and two years after that, Lincoln's mother died. His father remarried a widow, Sarah Bush Johnson, who had a profound affect on Lincoln as she encouraged him to continue his largely self-taught education.

    As a young man, Lincoln did split rails and perform other manual tasks as his political campaigns claimed, but as he hrew older, his interests gravitated toward more intellectual interests. By age 21, Lincoln had moved to Salem, Illinois and had grown into a muscular but gangly six foot, four inch man. In his youth he worked as a storekeeper, served as a militia captain in the Black Hawk Indian War and was a postmaster. In 1832 Lincoln ran unsuccessfully for the Illinois legislature, but he won a seat in 1834. There he gained state-wide popularity for his homespun wit and common sense. During this period Lincoln studied law books that he borrowed from a local attorney. He was licensed to practice in 1836 and worked as a junior partner under more experienced lawyers.

    In the mid 1840s, Lincoln established his own law practice and took a partner, William Herndon. From 1847 to 1849, he served one term in Congress. Following a brief time in Washington D.C., Lincoln returned to his law practice and became one of the most successful lawyers in the western United States. By the late 1850s Lincoln's annual earnings had reached $5000 a year, which was a substantial income at the time.

    Despite his success, Lincoln's political fortunes continued to fall short of his ambitions. In 1855 he was defeated in a bid for the U.S. Senate, and he failed to win a Senate seat again when he lost to Stephen Douglas in 1858. That campaign was marked by a series of debates that carried Lincoln to national prominence and provided him a base from which he ran for the presidency in 1860.

    The 1860 presidential campaign was one of the most chaotic in U.S. history. The Democratic Party, which had dominated presidential politics since Thomas Jefferson's time, split among regional lines. The southern faction supported John Breckinridge, who was Vice-President under James Buchanan, and the northern faction supported Stephen Douglas, who had defeated Lincoln for an Illinois Senate seat two years earlier. There was also a fourth candidate, John Bell, a wealthy plantation owner, who drew support from the old "Know Nothing" party and the conservative elements of the old Whig Party.

    Although Lincoln received only 40% of the popular vote, he won the election with a strong majority in the Electoral College. Lincoln did not receive a single vote from a state below the Mason-Dixon Line, but he won from the most heavily populated northern states plus several western states from his home turf.

    The Southern States began to secede from the Union before Lincoln was sworn into office. In December 1860, South Carolina, which had been a hotbed of defiance for 30 years, was the first to secede; and she was followed by ten other states within four months. Lincoln, as well as a majority of Americans, hoped that war could be averted; but when the shells began to fall on Fort Sumter, everyone knew that conflict was inevitable. Almost noone could forsee how long the war would last and at what cost.

    Throughout the War, Lincoln's main goal was to restore the Union by any means necessary. Those means did not necessarily include an end to slavery, at least at first. He took that position in part because he did not want to alienate the pro-Union conservatives in the States that bordered the South. In a telegram to one of his critics, newspaper publisher Horace Greeley, which was also made public at the time, Lincoln wrote:

"My paramount objective in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or destroy slavery--If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that..."

    Although Lincoln personally opposed slavery, he felt that the President, the Congress and the courts did not have the right to emancipate the slaves and take the property of the slave owners. This prompted Lincoln to grope for ways to sompensate the slave owners in return for giving up their slaves.

    Lincoln's first official anti-slavery pronouncement, the Emancipation Proclamation, was issued as much to isolate the South politically from France and England as it was to provide a first step toward freedom for the slaves. In fact, the Emancipation Proclamation freed only those slaves who lived in States that were still in rebellion on January 1, 1863. Since none of those States had any intention of returning to the Union, the Emancipation Proclamation did not free anyone. It was only after the passage of the 13th Ammendment to the Constitution in december 1865 that slavery officially ended everywhere in the United States.

    In his second inaugural address, Lincoln outlined post-war policy, "to bind up the nation's wounds", and to "achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and all nations". But Lincoln's plans for an amiable reconciliation between North and South were not to be. On the night of April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth committed one of the vilest acts in American history when he assassinated Lincoln at Ford's Theater. Lincoln's assassination left a void in leadership that doomed the United States to s difficult reconstruction period that lasted for more than 20 years.

    All but one of the 15 varieties that are included in the CWT series were connected with Lincoln's two presidential campaigns. Fuld numbers 506 and 507 were issued during Lincoln's 1860 campaign, and numbers 124 to 134 were issued before or during the 1864 contest. Most Lincoln CWT varieties are scarce, and many pieces are rated R-7 (11 to 20 known) or higher. In addition, many political memorabilia collectors and those known to collect Lincoln items in general are interested in these pieces. These factors have made most Lincoln related CWTs fairly expensive.

    I have been assembling the Lincoln CWT mini-set for the past four years. My goal has been to acquire one of each major Lincoln variety, with a strong preference towards tokens in copper or brass. My opinions, observations and price estimates are based upon what I have seen in the market from dealers' price lists, mail bid sales and coin shows. They are not the "final word" concerning this scarce and fascinating series.

     The 1860 Presidential Campaign Medalets - Fuld 506 and 507

     The 1864 Presidential Campaign Medalets and Tokens - Fuld 124 and 125      Fuld 126      Fuld 127      Fuld 128      Fuld 129 and 130      Fuld 131      Fuld 131A      Fuld 132 and 132A      Fuld 133      Fuld 134     As you can see from some of these price estimates, the Lincoln CWT mini-set is not for everyone, but it does pose a challenge to those collectors with larger budgets who have grown tired of the "hype" and nonsense that has taken some of the fun out of collecting regular U.S. coinage.
CWTS Article Archive
Winter 2016 A Reminiscence
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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
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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
Articles reprinted with permission of The Civil War Token Society.
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