The Fractured Coin of the Rebellion

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post about Albany’s currency and exchange materials during the Civil War.  Quick background – during the Civil War, coinage was scarce, and many merchants and tradespeople struck their own tokens for use in exchange for money.

In Albany, there were several examples of these “storefronts” or “storecards” – store owners like Benjamin & Herrick Fruit, Straight’s Elephantine Shoes and D.F. Wing offered “Union Flour” and “United We Stand, Divided We Fall” patriotic and inspirational currency.

After I finished that blog post, I donated the coinage I acquired to write the article to the Albany Institute of History and Art, so that the materials can be preserved and studied by future historians and curiosity seekers.

A few weeks ago, i came across one more coin in an eBay auction.  And luckily, I snapped it up.

What the hell happened to this coin?

First off, let’s compare this token to another Benjamin and Herrick Fruit Dealers token from that same period.

See how crisp and clean that coin at left looks?  Sure looks different than what appears to be a seriously shattered token above.  Could that token have survived a bullet from battle?

Nah.  Would that it be true, but the truth is more pedestrian than that.

These storecards were privately produced and privately minted.  They were created for the sole purpose of transaction of goods and services when currency was scarce – essentially, their value was tied to the store itself.

The tokens were not designed with quality control in mind.  Oftentimes the die stamping the token would crack or shatter, but if tokens were needed, then tokens were stamped with the broken die.

And such is the example I found.  That token from Benjamin and Herrick Fruit Dealers was the result of a private minting with a broken die.  It’s rare, for certain – and it’s unique in and of itself.

And as soon as the weather gets warmer, I’ll drop it off at the Albany Institute of History and Art, where the other Civil War storefronts and scrip are stored.

Boy, historians are going to have a field day with this little treasure.