CWTS Article of the Month!

January 1999

Die Sinker Errors on Civil War Tokens

by Dale Cade

Extracted from The Civil War Token Journal, Volume 31 Number 2.

    It is common knowledge among collectors of civil war tokens that die sinkers committed mistakes in the preparation of their dies.  How do we know this?  Their errors are preserved on the tokens made from their dies that they produced.  What, you may ask, constitutes an error in the die making process?  Prominent among the errors would be mis-spelling of the client's name, address, and/or business or merchandise sold.  What about general spelling errors and "corrected" errors where the original error remains fully or partially visible?  It is the author's opinion that all of the foregoing should be considered as die sinking errors.  Using the foregoing "ground rules", the author has identified 293 store cards that contain die sinker's errors, and in the patriotic dies, another 7 can be found.  These counts are based on the store card obverse (in most cases), with different reverse die combinations, but does not include usage of the same die pairing on different planchet materials.  The varieties considered are noted in the Fuld store card book as dashed numbered varieties of a merchant (e.g.: -1, -2, -3, etc.).

    It is of interest to note that some die sinking errors appear rather frequently, and across a wide spectrum of merchants, and probably die sinkers as well.  The majority of errors, however, are peculiar to a specific merchant, town, or street address.  Some of the more popular errors, if that is an appropriate term, are these:

  • "METALLIC" is spelled with a single "L".
  • "PITTSBURGH" is spelled without the "H".
  • "CIGARS" is spelled "SEGARS".
  • "JEWELERS" is spelled with two "L"s.
    It is an interesting question as to why the issuing merchant would permit there errors (which indirectly reflect on his business) to enter and become part of the commercial marketplace scene.  Several possible "explanations" for this come to mind.    There are:
  • 1.  The errors were not noticed by either the die sinker or the merchant.
  • 2.  The pieces, being flawed, were offered to the merchant at a reduced price
  • 3.  Neither the die sinker nor the merchant considered the spellings to be incorrect.

  •     Not infrequently, both forms of spelling may be found on the major varieties of the same merchant tokens.  This, to my mind, nullifies the first "explanation".  If you accept the general level of literacy during the civil war period was very low compared to present day general literacy, then the third "explanation" may have some validity.  That leaves "explanation" number two as the most probable reason for acceptance of the pieces by the merchants, and by extension, may help to explain the prevalence of other errors such as clipped planchets.

        The listings to follow were gleaned from the second edition of Fuld's store card book (blue hard cover), and from the fourth edition of Fuld's patriotic book (red hard cover), and from the supplemental to the fourth edition (red soft cover).  They are listed alphabetically, with the store card attribution(s).  The error dies in the patriotic series are listed last and are identified with the appropriate die number.    

    Store Card Die Sinker Errors
    Reverse dated 1873 (probably 1863) OH170A-1; OH170B-1; OH170C-1
    "=" used for "-" WI220E-1, -2, -3; WI151V-1; WI530A-1; WI550A-1
    Merchant name ADDERLEY for ADDERLY MI225A-1 through -8
    City name ALLEGHANY should be ALLEGHENY (last vowel "A" instead of "E") PA13E-1 through -5; PA13F-1 through -7
    Merchant name BURKHOLTER ("T" recut over "D") OH76A-1
    Merchant name M.B. CASTLE ("M recut over "W") IL775A-1
    CHESNU'S should be CHESTNUT ("T" omitted and " 'S" added) OH415A-1 through -4a
    CHESNUT should be CHESTNUT (first "T" omitted) PA750S-1; PA750T-1
    CLTHING should be CLOTHING ("O" omitted) MI370B-2
    CONFECTIONARY should be CONFECTIONERY (last vowel "A" instead of "E") OH76A-1; OH65H-1 through -3; OH165GX-7; WI220I-1
    Merchant name DALZZEL should be DALZELL (extra "Z" and short one "L") PA13C-1
    Merchant name DALZELL ("Z" and "E" recut over "E" and "L" respectively; see listing above PA13C-2 through -5
    DEALE should be DEALER ("R" omitted) IL320C-1 and -2
    DEPOSITE should be DEPOSIT (extra "E" on end) IL775B-2
    FIREMANS should be FIREMAN'S (apostrophe omitted) IL150BD-1
    FON DU LAC should be FOND DU LAC ("D" omitted) WI220F-1 through -3; WI220M-1
    FURRS should be FURS (extra "R") OH165CY-45
    Street name GRATOIT should be GRATIOT ("I" and "O" transposed) MI225A-1 through -8; MI225AA-1 through -3; MI225AW-1 through -4
    GROCKERY should be CROCKERY ("G" instead of "C") IL225A-1
    Merchant name F.H. HAFER ("F" and "H" recut over other letters) OH360A-1 through -5
    HARDWARE has backward "D" OH880B-2
    ILINOIS should be ILLINOIS (one "L" omitted) IL775B-2
    IMPORORTER should be IMPORTER ("OR" doubled) OH200A-2, -6
    JACKSON over PORTSMOUTH OH415A-1 through -4
    JEWELLER should be JEWELER (extra "L") IN800C-1 through -5; PA464A-1 through -6; WI510AP-1 through -5
    Merchant name KRUG should be KING IN57OF-1
    City name KYLBOURN should be KILBOURN ("Y" instead of "I") WI340B-1
    City name LA CROSS should be LA CROSSE ("E" omitted) WO360B-1
    LIGONIE should be LIGONIER ("R" omitted) IN550J-1
    MANNER should be MANUF'R ("NE" instead of "UF") OH165CY-109
    MCIH should be MICH ("I " and "C" transposed) MI225AS-1 through -3
    MERCHANDIZE should be MERCHANDISE ("Z" instead of "S") WI540A-1
    METALIC should be METALLIC (one "L" omitted) OH165BZ-1 through -3; OH165CY-46 through -98; OH100B-3; OH165DN-2; OH165FM-7 and -8; OH165GX-6; OH175S-7 through -9; OH200D-13; OH200F-4; OH835A-3; OH835B-3; OH835D-3; OH995C-6; OH995E-2; OH995G-10; OH995J-2 and -3; WV890B-5; WI220A-3 and -4
    State name MICH should be IND IN550G-3
    State name MICH should be WIS WI320A-2
    NI should be IN MI770B-2
    NORWEIGEN should be NORWEGIAN ("IGE" instead of "GIA") WI410B-1,(rev)
    City name ORVILLE should be ORRVILLE ("R " omitted) OH695A-1 through -6
    City name OWASSO should be OWOSSO ("A" for "O") MI735A-1
    City name PITTSBURG should be PITTSBURGH ("H" omitted) PA765B-1 through -3; PA765C-1 and -2; PA765D-1 through -5; PA765G-1 and -2; PA765H-1 and -2; PA765I-1 through -4; PA765M-2 through -8; PA765P-5 through -12; PA765P-14 though -16; PA765T-1; PA765U-1; PA765V-1 through -4
    QJEENSWARE should be QUEENSWARS ("J" for "U") IN740A-1
    RUSIAN should be RUSSIAN ("S" omitted) MI370B-1
    SEGARS should be CIGARS ("SE" for "CI") NY630C-10 and -11; NY630Y-1; NY630AF-1; NY630AO-1 through -7; OH165BE-1 through -4; PA765V-1 through -4; WI170A-1
    SHIP should be SHOP ("I" instead of "O") OH74A-3
    SHIRS should be SHIRTS ("T" omitted) OH175P-2
    City name SPINGFIELD should be SPRINGFIELD ("R" omitted) OH830G-1 and -2
    STATIONARY should be STATIONERY ("A" for "E") OH985A-1
    STOEVS should be STOVES ("VE" transposed) MI225AR-1 through -4
    STOR should be STORE ("E" omitted) IL150AL-1
    STORES should be STOVES ("R" instead of "V") OH560A-7
    Merchant name Z.Z. ST LEWIS should be J.J. ST. LOUIS WI520I-4 through -6
    Merchant name MRS. J. TATE should be MRS. A. J. TATE ("A" omitted) WI590A-1
    Merchant name TELLEE should be TELLER (last "E" should be "R") WI510AO-4
    Merchant name TELLER ("R" recut over "E")  WI510AO-1 through -3
    TABACO should be TOBACCO  (two "C"s) PA765J-1
    TOBACONISTS should be TOBACCONISTS (two "C"s) PA13E-6 through -9
    TRIMINGS should be TRIMMINGS (two "M"s) OH995J-1
    UNION ("N" is backwards in two places) RI70OF-1 and -2
    VALPARISO should be VALPARAISO (last "A" omitted) IN915A-2
    City name WAPAKONETA should be WAPPAKONETA (two "P"s) OH905C-1
    State Name WJS should be WIS ("J" for "I") WI340A-1
    Merchant name ZANDT should be ZANONE OH165GW-1
    Patriotic Die Sinker Errors
    Die 222 "BE" over "BY"
    Die 223 "BY" should be "BE"
    Die 414 "SPOOT" should be "SHOOT"  ("P instead of "H")
    Die 418 "NORT" and "SOUT" should be "NORTH" and "SOUTH" ("H" omitted from each)
    Die 419 Same as Die 418
    Die 429 NECESITY should be NECESSITY  (one "S" omitted")
    Die 431 PLEAS should be PLEASE  (last "E" omitted)

        Collecting civil war tokens by die sinking errors is yet another way that these fascinating pieces may be collected.  Most of them are fairly easy to obtain at reasonable prices.  As new storecard and patriotic varieties are discovered, there will probably be additional die sinker errors to be discovered.  For the sake of completeness, are there any die sinker errors that you know of that are not listed?  If so, please contact the author with this information.

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