Beginning in the mid-19th century, fraternal orders such as the Masons, Odd Fellows, Eagles, and Elks issued tokens that could be presented as proof of membership in the order (these are known as "mark pennies"), as souvenirs, and for gambling. Masonic pennies often feature a chapter’s name on the token, although many pennies purchased from wholesalers do not.
Because symbolism was so important to fraternal culture, these small coins are rife with meaning. The most ubiquitous representation of the Masons was the letter "G" surrounded by a compass and square, representing the holy geometry of God. At times other masonry tools like keystones, mallets, and chisels were struck into Masonic tokens. Some tokens feature the letters "H.T.W.S.S.T.K.S.," which means "Hiram the Widow's Son Sent to King Solomon," the biblical story that must be acted out to reach the third, or Master's Degree, in Freemasonry.
Both the Masons and the Odd Fellows employ the "All-Seeing Eye" of God in their imagery, as well as grim skeletal "memento mori" symbols. But an Odd Fellows token might have three chain links ("friendship, love and trust"), a handshake ("friendship"), or a hand holding a heart ("sincere charity"). Bees, scales, and snakes are other esoteric symbols that are found on fraternal pennies.
One sub-group within fraternal tokens are those made for the Ku Klux Klan, which often feature cryptic acronyms ("M.I.A.F.A." stands for "My Interests Are For America") rather than the letters KKK, since the organization was so reviled.
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