A token follow-up


by Terry Hogan

A few months back, I wrote an article about a couple of tokens that were sent to me be a reader, and a good friend. There were two tokens – one was for the Menter Clothing Company and the other was a Jennings token. Both were taken from a desk in Galesburg and one clearly was marked with Galesburg. I assumed both were from Galesburg, but I could not find much on the tokens.

The article sparked an interesting and informative response from the "Maverick Editor" for the Token and Medal Society. The society has a token newsletter and the Maverick Editor writes a token article from time to time. Not surprising, I didn’t know there was such a group, but on reflection, I know that everything is collected by someone. And tokens are an interesting bit of history as the Maverick Editor, John Mutch, explained in his email.

John Mutch wrote that a small percentage of tokens are "mavericks" that have no clearly marked place of origin. Thus some token collectors try to track these mavericks down. He provided the following information about these particular tokens. The Menter Clothing Company was once a chain of stores throughout the Midwest. The particular token that we had was attributed to Kansas City, Missouri (not Galesburg). The token was given out as a discount to potential customers. Other Menter store tokens have been attributed to Grand Rapids and Saginaw, Michigan as well as Chicago, Minneapolis, Dayton, and Columbus, Ohio.

The Jennings token was from Galesburg. It was marked. It is attributed to L.T. Jennings who was a clerk at the cigar counter in the Illinois Hotel in 1910, according to Mr. Mutch. Tokens, like people, had legitimate purposes for advertising and the like. But tokens also were used to "get around" the prohibition on gambling. Gambling for a token wasn’t really like gambling for money, was it? Thus, sometimes tokens took on the role as a surrogate for cash during a little card playing.

Tokens were also used for giving change. At one time, you might get two drinks or two good cigars for a quarter. If you only wanted one, you might get all or part of your change back in tokens, such as a dime and 2.5 cent token. Because the token would generally not be honored at other establishments, it encouraged the customer to return for his next drink or smoke.

There is even a published reference for Illinois tokens. It is called the Trade Tokens of Illinois. It was written by Ore Vacketta, again, according to Mr. Mutch. Apparently there are about 50 businesses listed in the book that used tokens in Galesburg at one time or another. In fact, I have encountered the occasional Galesburg token for sale on eBay.

Once again, this shows how the world is getting smaller. Mr. Mutch didn’t read the token article in the Zephyr. Instead, he came across the electronic version on the Zephyr website; probably while doing some token research on the Internet. Thus, it isn’t surprising that he is not from Galesburg, or even Illinois. Instead, he calls Boise, Idaho home. He is working on his own token book on Idaho trade tokens.

Finally, he took pity on me and explained how to make the "" sign on a computer keyboard. For those who want to make sure that they get their 2 worth out of this article, you do it by holding down on the "Alt" key and typing "1 5 5" on the numeric keypad (not the numbers at the top of the keyboard. I tried that and it doesn’t work). For those of you who are confused by this bit of critical wisdom and why it is included, I noted in the original Token article that I didn’t know how to make a "" sign on a computer keyboard. But now just look at me go… . It is just a token bit of knowledge, but it makes good sense to know how to make good "". (If you haver a Mac, a sign is just option-4).

Was it Franklin who said, something like "Watch your and the $ will take care of themselves"? Franklin, or whoever, didn’t know that the "$" would make it to a computer keyboard key, but the lowly "" would require four key strokes to leave its mark on the electronic paper. Perhaps this is just another subtle reminder of inflation and the devaluation of the lowly "".

Thank you John Mutch, Maverick Editor and token expert, for sharing your token sense and your keyboard "".