Author Topic: On the modern ‘local coins’ of Sweden  (Read 103 times)

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Offline Vincent

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On the modern ‘local coins’ of Sweden
« on: August 15, 2019, 03:14:06 PM »
Beginning in 1977, a series of coin-like objects have been issued in various local communities around Sweden, known as lokalmynt, literally ‘local coins’. They carry a face value and are clearly a numismatic subject – but what are they, more specifically?
   The series of local coins had its beginning in 1977 in the town of Trelleborg, where the committee behind a local festival, called Mikaeli Marknad, decided to issue some “coins” as a fundraiser for the festival. The coins were sold by the committee through various outlets, and agreements had been made with various local businesses to accept the coins as means of payment. There were three types and they were denominated 10, 100 and 1000 kronor. There was a bit of a kerfuffle surrounding the Trelleborg coins. The concept of local coins was a novelty, and there were no regulations in place to guide their potential use. This caused some questions among the people who could potentially use these coins – were they real coins or not? Until then there had only been one type of coins, namely the regular coins that circulated throughout Sweden. Swedish numismatist Bertel Tingström pointed out* in Myntkontakt, November 1977, that a coin is issued and backed by the government and is the officially recognised medium of exchange. This is not the case with the Trelleborg “coins”, which are defined by Tingström as medals or tokens. The issuance of these coins could also potentially have gotten the committee in Trelleborg into hot waters, legally speaking, especially if they were to market their coins as official coins. In the event, it was found that there was no law that defined the Trelleborg coins as illegal. As Tingström indicated, there was no law prohibiting a business owner from accepting a token as a means of payment. This doesn’t turn the tokens into official coinage, though. The festival in Trelleborg is recurring annually to this day, although it is now called Palmfestivalen.
   Having been pioneered by the festival organisers in Trelleborg, local coins were issued in many parts of Sweden during the late 1970s and the 1980s. Although the phenomenon has tapered off they are still occasionally issued. They are often denominated in kronor, but various other units have been invented for the purpose. The series of local coins has become very extensive over the years. Such coins were sponsored by many different organisations, e.g. sports associations. Some or all of the local coins of Östersund were sponsored by a local numismatic association, Östersunds Myntklubb. In each case, the proceeds from the sale of the coins benefit the sponsoring association.
   The issuance of local coins did not remain entirely unregulated. In Trelleborg in 1977 it would have been clear who had issued the coins and why. Divorced from the original context, they might not be properly understood. The 1977 Trelleborg coins carry the name of the town on one side and an image of the seal of Trelleborg on the other. If you didn’t know any better, you might think that the municipal administration had created a local currency. (I have seen a case of someone attempting to get the municipal administration in Huddinge to exchange a local coin from that location for regular Swedish currency). This would have invited comparisons with the French World War I era tokens issued by local chambres de commerce. The Swedish Consumer Agency (Konsumentverket) issued guidelines for local coins in response to the early unregulated issues. These guidelines, as referenced** by Bertel Tingström in 1979, are:
  • Advertisements for local coins should not leave the impression that they are legal tender.
  • Local coins should have a pre-defined time period of validity.
  • Information regarding period of validity, office of redemption and issuer must be explicitly indicated on the coins themselves.
  • Similar information must be indicated in any promotional materials.
  • The issuer must ensure that businesses that have chosen to accept local coins as means of payment advertise their participation.
  • Advertisements for local coins should not provide false expectations that the coins will have great value as collectible items in the future.
   One thing to note is that the coins are supposed to have an expiration date and an office where they can be redeemed, i.e. exchanged for regular Swedish currency. This means that the anomalous situation of having an alternative, local currency does not last infinitely. After the expiration date, all coins that had not been redeemed – presumably the vast majority – would be keepsakes and collectible items only. (One can imagine that there might occasionally have been a bit of nervous tension in the air in the issuing organisations in the final days before the expiration date!).
   Another thing to note is that key information must be indicated on the coins themselves. This has led to several coins being issued with an inscription, given in very small lettering, containing this information. (In some cases, even the edge was used for this purpose). This was probably seen as a nuisance by the people issuing the coins, but from a numismatic perspective, it means that key information regarding the coins’ background is available in the coin itself.
   So, how should we categorise these items? If the question is ‘are they means of payment?’, then, yes they are. They were used to a limited extent in transactions between people who had voluntarily chosen to accept them as means of payment. The expiration of their validity also implies that there was a period of validity (i.e. purchasing power) before the expiration date. If the question is ‘are they coins?’, then the answer would have to be no. They were not issued by a central bank or government, they were not backed by the state or government, and you could not pay taxes with them. Being issued by private associations, they are tokens, not coins – the issuing associations did not have the authority to issue actual coins. Whether that makes them any more – or any less – interesting as collectible items is entirely up to each collector to decide. In case you’re thinking of taking a course in Swedish geography, learning more about their local coins might not be a bad start!

* Bertel Tingström: Lokalmynt – ny fluga, in Myntkontakt, November 1977.
** Bertel Tingström: Lokalmynt, in Myntkontakt, October 1979.

Offline malj1

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Re: On the modern ‘local coins’ of Sweden
« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2019, 09:21:12 AM »
Quote
Being issued by private associations, they are tokens, not coins

I agree. I have seen British issues too no doubt there are others. One that comes to mind is from Plymouth. 50 Drake nobles, I believe this is one of a series.


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Offline malj1

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Re: On the modern ‘local coins’ of Sweden
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2019, 09:25:49 AM »
Many UK cities are also issuing Local currency. Local currency is not Legal Tender.

...perhaps this one from Bath might be interesting:

Unlike regular Local Currency, the Bath Oliver was a bit too complex to fully understand, it was meant to be some form of exchange for services or something.

The paper these are printed on is made from recycled-Hemp, which is Cannabis leaves, so quite a novelty angle.
These may be the only Banknotes on eBay that are made from Narcotics, but apparently Hemp paper is perfectly harmless, and you can't get high by smoking it, so don't even try.


Malcolm
Have a look at  my tokens and my banknotes.

Offline malj1

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Re: On the modern ‘local coins’ of Sweden
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2019, 09:30:50 AM »
Perhaps the earliest notes are these from the Channel Island of Herm £1 Tourist Coupons used between 1956 and 1958.

See my web page here
Malcolm
Have a look at  my tokens and my banknotes.

Offline FosseWay

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Re: On the modern ‘local coins’ of Sweden
« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2019, 10:49:21 AM »
Yes, Sweden is particularly prolific in its issuance of lokalmynt. I have deliberately avoided getting sucked into them (and dog tax tokens, which are even more numerous) because you have to draw the line somewhere!

I agree with the classification of them as "tokens for use as payment" rather than coins. Essentially they are no different from tokens issued for a specific purpose such as transport. They can be used as payment within the specific criteria of the scheme but not officially otherwise (though there is nothing stopping individuals agreeing otherwise, even on a wide scale, as happened with the gettoni telefonici in Italy, which circulated widely).

I think one can draw a functional distinction between two kinds of local currency, though.

The first is issued primarily as a novelty item in conjunction with, say, a carnival or festival, or to raise money for a specific, timebound purpose. Raising money for the rebuilding of Notre Dame might well have been a suitable purpose had the need arisen in another country at another time.

The second is a more permanent idea, driven by politico-economic dogmas of various kinds but principally aimed at promoting the spending of locally earned money at local service providers. The "Stroud Pound" is an example of this.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: On the modern ‘local coins’ of Sweden
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2019, 12:28:56 PM »
It's impossible to define "coin". Here is Wikipedia's attempt: A coin is a small, flat, (usually, depending on the country or value) round piece of metal or plastic used primarily as a medium of exchange or legal tender. They are standardized in weight, and produced in large quantities at a mint in order to facilitate trade. They are most often issued by a government.. There are no hard or universally correct characteristics in this definition. Small in relation to what? Flat as in bullet coins? Primarily as medium of exchange disregards treasures. Legal tender is a fashion term, getting out of fashion.

If you can't define coins, all you can do is approximate what a coin often looks like. The characteristic that will stand out is "suitable to be used as money". The collapsable, coloured, pure gold clad iron Notre Dame issues from a shady company in Andorra are not suitable to be used as money. Pieces for an uninhabited island are not suitable to be used as money. A piece that can be used all over a real country is suitable as money. A restrike of a gold coin or a silver piece with a value that is higher than the denomination of the smallest banknote is not suitable as money.

The suitability has two facets: supply and demand. Suitable supply means that anyone wanting to use a denomination can get it. Suitable demand means that you can trust that people in the currency area will accept it. The tokens described above are limited in supply and limited in demand. Therefore, their suitability as money is restricted in time and place. That's a relative shortfall, though, since there was supply and demand at some time in some place. As money, they rank above the issues for uninhabited islands, where there is neither supply, nor demand. These things can be used nowhere and never.

As collectibles, you may want to exclude them, like FosseWay, include them, or want only a representative few, e.g. to show the changing legal attitude to them, as Vincent showed. Your choice is nobody else's business. Actually, I applaud the "truth in advertising" part, so painfully lacking in pseudo coins.

In conclusion, I personally find some of those tokens (they occur in many countries, I am aware of catalogues of the Polish and Dutch issues) more appropriate for my collection than some weird stuff calling itself coin. Your mileage may vary.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline malj1

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Re: On the modern ‘local coins’ of Sweden
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2019, 12:44:01 PM »
pennywisepaul specialises in local currency notes and is good to deal with, we have had long conversations at times.
Malcolm
Have a look at  my tokens and my banknotes.

Offline Vincent

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Re: On the modern ‘local coins’ of Sweden
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2019, 10:57:29 PM »
I used to think that it was easy to distinguish between a coin and a token. A coin is issued by the government or central bank, and a token is issued by a private company. When looking into East Asian coins, I realised that it was not always so simple. One example is the Japanese trade coins from 1659-85. They are copies of Chinese Song dynasty coins, minted in Nagasaki for the purpose of selling them in bulk to the Dutch, who would take them to places where Chinese cash coins were generally accepted. So, they were Chinese by type, Japanese by manufacture and Dutch by distribution, but they were not authorised for circulation in any of those three countries. Nevertheless, they fit in with the circulating coin mass in the areas where they were received. Those could be considered tokens, rather than coins. Another complexity might be those cases where there is some arrangement between a government and a private company, that makes it difficult to define where the government stops and the company begins, and vice versa.

There has been some discussion in Sweden as to whether these local coins (lokalmynt) are really a new thing or not, since tokens have been issued on many occasions throughout the centuries. I think the local coins are actually a new thing – or they were back in 1977. Normally, a token has a purchasing power within one particular business or institution. The local coins could be used across several businesses within a particular area, and are thus a special class of tokens.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: On the modern ‘local coins’ of Sweden
« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2019, 12:41:47 AM »
Nothing is ever simple. There are plenty of tokens meant for use in a wide area. Some examples: around 1815, toy manufacturers in Frankfurt produced lightweight copper pieces sold to all comers and circulated for a pfennig or a cent. There is a story that local criminal gangs, called Bokkenrijders (Buckriders) forcibly circulated them in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. On the British isles, trade tokens took the place of official money when few official coins were to be had notably around 1795 and around 1810. While they were meant to circulate locally, like your Swedish tokens, many had no or a false return address and circulated everywhere. A wave of tokens rolled across France in the period 1916-1923. Some were local, but accomplished enough to circulate nationally (Evreux), some were regional, issued by regional chambers of commerce, a few circulated nationally and are considered coins, though inscribed "BON POUR" (good for), while the tokens of nationally operating banks made of framed stamps are not. In the US, a long series of "hard times tokens" were largely non-local. Canadian Blacksmith tokens were non-local also. In Denmark, stamps in cellophane circulated nationally in the early days of the second world war, while in Spain, stamps on carton saw national circulation during the civil war.

Tokens are at least as hard to define as coins and there is no sharp dividing line between coins and tokens.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Vincent

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Re: On the modern ‘local coins’ of Sweden
« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2019, 01:01:54 AM »
Ah - thanks for the examples. I knew of some of them, but not about others.

Regarding the local coins being a new phenomenon, I meant new in the context of Swedish currency history. There have been some older tokens that circulated alongside official coins, but those were issued in a time of coinage scarcity, not with the intention of creating a local currency.