Sometimes called merchant tokens, sometimes called “good fors,” trade tokens in the United States go back to the late 18th century, when event tokens were produced for circus acts and other performances (it is thought that George Washington used a copper token to see Bill Ricketts perform tricks on horses). In the 1820s, manufacturers such as Scovill made the production of tokens a business, which led to greater demand. The Hard Times tokens of the 1830s and ’40s continued the trending popularity of merchant tokens, while tokens produced during the Civil War were a direct response to coin shortages caused by the conflict. After that war, merchant coinage blossomed, and tokens from the late 19th and early 20th centuries are today generally identified and collected by state.


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