The Evolution of a Fractured Coin of the Rebellion

I’ve been fascinated by Albany’s Civil War coinage – the scrip and exonumia produced by Albany’s merchants in 1863, when U.S. currency proved scarce.

In the past, I’ve blogged about these coins and transactional storefronts – merchants like D.L. Wing and Straight’s Elephantine Shoes and Benjamin & Herrick Fruits, Here’s a blog post from February 2017 about the coins.  for example.  I’ve collected these coins, and I’ve donated them to the Albany Institute of History and Art for their permanent use and archival.

In December 2017, I blogged about acquiring a fractured token, one that was stamped with a defective or broken die.  Naturally, these coins were not minted by the U.S. Mint, they were instead crafted by independent companies so that merchants could still transact business with their customers.  You know, like Kohl’s Cash works today.

So here’s the obverse of one of the more common Albany civil war tokens, a Benjamin & Herrick Fruits coin.

There are several different variations of the Benjamin and Herrick Fruit Dealers coin, mostly involving where the upper-left corner of the “F” in “FRUIT” aligns with the “N” or the “J” in “BENJAMIN.”  Trust me, numismatists can get plenty persnickety on these variations.

Now the thing about THIS coin is that at some point in time, the metalsmiths that made these coins manufactured a bunch of them with a fractured die.  Fractured coins in U.S. mintage are extremely rare – any that are found at the Mint will get quickly destroyed lest they appear in circulation.  Independent mintage at your local metalsmith’s – not so much.

Here’s the Benjamin and Herrick coin that was struck with a fractured die.

Wow.  You can see all the spider-like voids in this coin.  But hey, it’s 1863, there’s a war between the States, the country’s in a crisis, who cares about a few lines going through your storefront coin?

Of course, I’m seeing this coin, and I’m thinking, “How long did they keep stamping that coin out?  Surely the die would have shattered at some point, right?”

So yesterday, I acquired another Benjamin and Herrick fractured die coin, or as it’s listed in the Fuld book of Civil War coinage, NY-010-A-7b, R6.  Hmm.  Sounds more like someone’s old Prodigy e-mail account, amirite?

Anyway … here’s my second fractured coin for my collection.  Take a look.


In addition to all the cracks that are still evident in this coin, there’s now a crack running from the “C” in “HERRICK” all the way down through the “N.Y.” and to the “Y” in “ALBANY.”  This coin looks like it went out to Antietam and back.

This is fascinating stuff.  The coin I acquired yesterday … it may have been one of the last coins struck before the die completely fell apart.  And now I have two of them.

By the way, would you like to see the coin’s reverse?

Sure you would.

In case you’re wondering, what would be 427 Broadway today is actually one of the corners of the SUNY Administration building – the old D&H headquarters – you know, the downtown Albany castle.

Maybe at some point in time I will put together a nice art piece with these coins … you know, something involving the history of the fruit store, along with some old advertisements and the obverses and reverses of these sweet little tokens.

But that’s for another day and another time.  For nwo, these coins are going back in a little box until further notice.