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Series of interesting tokens

Started by brandm24, May 06, 2020, 12:28:35 PM

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I've been looking around a bit for examples of this series of tokens since I came across one a few days ago. They were issued mostly in the 1890's but some probably date to a decade earlier. Though limited details seem to have been discovered about the company itself, their tokens have been studied by such prominent researchers as David Schenkman, Fred Reed lll and Russell Rulau.

There are apparently at least two series of tokens issued. The presidential series includes examples depicting George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant , James Garfield and Grover Cleveland. All the tokens in both series are 40 mm and are struck in either vulcanite or white metal. There may also be some struck in bronze, but the reporting of these is unverified. All share a common reverse...image posted. The presidential series are all on vulcanite (hard rubber) and were issued in various colors according to Schenkman. The colors are tan, green, dark blue, maroon and bright red. I've posted an image of Grover Cleveland in dark brown, a color Schenkman apparently wasn't familiar with. I also came across a second piece, that of Lincoln, in dark brown.

The second series doesn't seem to have been given a name, but all, or most of them, depict female entertainers of the time...singers, stage performers, actresses, etc. The ones I've seen are Adelina Patti, Mary Anderson, Clara Morris and Ellen Terry to name a few. I've attached images of the tokens featuring Clara Morris (actress) and Mary Anderson (American Theater performer) plus actual pictures of them for comparison. This series of tokens are all struck in white metal and share the common reverse with the presidential series. Most are holed, but not all. This, and their size, have tempted collectors to describe them as medals but they're always referred to as tokens by researchers.

According to Fred Reed, the Union Coffee Co. owned a patented process for roasting coffee. After roasting It was packaged in one pound packages and hermetically sealed. It sold for 25 cents per package. Reed also notes that the company staged "taste tests" to help promote it's brand. Retailers would set up at local fairs or other public gatherings and distribute samples to potential customers. Their product was also packaged in 100 pound lots and offered as lottery prizes. A novel way to advertise a product for sure.

The words Alaroma and Bunola struck on every token represent coffee brands offered by Union.

Always Faithful


Pretty good portraits, except that of Morris. A common children's error: eyes are half way up the skull, not somewhere up high. The flattened head stands out. Still, I'd ask why the other portraits are so good before wondering why the Morris portrait is so bad.

Advertising tokens?

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


The flattened head may just be her version of "hat hair." A cameo picture would be easier to compare, but I couldn't find one. The portrait does seem shoehorned onto the planchet so maybe the artist had to flatten it out a bit to make it fit.  :o Then again, maybe Mr. Google misidentified the picture. :o

I did a little more looking around after my first post and found out a couple of interesting things. Apparently, these pieces were cut by the New York firm of F. Koch & Co. Koch also cut American Civil War dies for a number of merchants. They were in business until the early 1900's

Also, Fred Reed shared a funny anecdote about a couple who actually named their daughters Alaroma and Bunola after Union's coffee brands. No word of how the girls reacted to being named after coffee brands.

Always Faithful


Sorry, yes, they're considered advertising tokens.

Always Faithful