American token valued in pence and shillings

Started by brandm24, March 10, 2022, 04:31:56 PM

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brandm24

This is something I've never seen before, an American token valued in pence and shillings. Cataloger Russ Rulau did extensive research on these Moss' Hotel issues and discovered other related New York tokens linked to Moss by punch characteristics and valuation.

Other area businesses including the Smithsonian House, Sweeny's Hotel. and A.D. Thompson can be punch linked to die sinker Thomas L. Clark of the city. What's of particular interest is that two of them, the Smithsonian and Thompson, also value their tokens in pence and shillings. Rulau couldn't find a definitive answer to the question of the odd values but opined that the three businesses, all hotels, probably catered to British seamen and merchants.

Moss' was built sometime before 1855 and operated under several different names. Patrick Fay, the proprietor of what was then known as the North American Hotel, rented the property to Daniel Moss who changed the name to Moss' Hotel. The dates of his stewardship are unclear but 1855 to 1865 is likely accurate. After Moss withdrew the property was renovated and renamed the New England Hotel. I've attached both an image of the building c1865 and the apartment building that stands at the corner of Bowery and Bayard today.

The tokens, all 27mm, are in brass with the exception of one variety known in copper. There are an astounding 25 varieties documented. All have the same obverse with a different reverse "value side." There are a few examples known that have no declared value so are apparently remainders. Rulau's catalog numbers are NY-587 thru NY-609 in his standard reference.

Bruce
Always Faithful

Figleaf

I suppose this is in NY, as I found a Bayard street that ends at Bowery (from the Dutch: bouwerij, an archaic word for farm) street where there is a building that seems to match the one in your photo.

The building is within walking distance of the port area around where Brooklyn bridge is now and in Chinatown, so it may indeed have had sailors (officers, I presume) as its target client group. Keep in mind that shillings and pence were also used in parts of what is now Canada, even after decimalisation, as e.g. the Halifax dollar was tariffed in UK currency. I am now far from my library but can look up dreary details if you wish.

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

brandm24

I wasn't aware of the Canadian usage of shillings and pence but I'm guessing it was limited by what you say. I think Rulau's explanation is probably the correct one but he had little more than circumstantial evidence to offer I knew Russ quite well having shared research with him for a number of years and I knew him to be a careful and thorough researcher.

I appreciate your comments, Peter.

Bruce
Always Faithful

Figleaf

Not really. Remember those Canadian tokens? They are denominated in sous or UK pre-decimal money. From memory, most of Canada decimalised in 1858 (not sure about the Prince Edward Islands and Newfoundland), only to find themselves in a situation where CAD followed the USD and Newfoundland followed UK pounds, while Canadian decimal gold came much later and UK gold coins remained in circulation.

Of course Canadian money does not exclude US money, but there was a good amount of coastal shipping from Canada to the US and Ambassador bridge hadn't been invented yet ;)

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

Figleaf

I am also pondering that 3/9 (three halfcrown) denomination. After the Napoleonic war, the Spanish colonial peso's traditional rate was 4/5, but that will have gone down as Spain lost its colonies. Still, a rate of 3/9 seems a bit low, so it may just have served to prove you paid the bed, so you could have breakfast.

Meanwhile, NY got its share of the Caribbean trade (sugar, cotton, fruit, fish) as well. The 1850s is clearly too late for the holed dollars and pills, but they were replaced by UK coins (e.g. Jamaica).

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

brandm24

Very interesting information, Peter. Sadly, Russ Rulau passed away several years ago or I'd contact him to comment.

It could very well be that the tokens were so valued to attract both groups. What ever the case, these are the only American issues I've seen valued in pence and shillings.

Bruce
Always Faithful

brandm24

I mentioned earlier that two other hostelries contemporary to Moss' also valued their tokens as they did. The Smithsonian House was one of them. I found a nice image of one of their tokens but unfortunately the reverse is blank.

(Image courtesy of Steve Hayden)

Bruce
Always Faithful