Netherlands Gas Tokens

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Municipal and Private Gas Token Issuers

Almost all tokens were issued by municipalities. These are lower governments that may be split or merged to accommodate developments in time. The name of former independent municipalities may live on in the name of a quarter. There is no distinction between a municipality and a town or between a town and a city.

Some gas factories delivered gas to villages around the central part of the municipality (buitengemeente) or to other, nearby municipalities.

Gas as a source of energy in the Netherlands

Natural gas, often found together with oil, could not be used commercially, until an infrastructure for transport and storage was built and that would happen only when enough demand was foreseen. However, compared to coal and oil, gas is relatively clean. Amsterdam founded the first municipal gas (based on rapeseed oil) company in 1825, mainly for street lighting. Rotterdam followed suit in 1826 with a plant using coal gas, which would be the prevalent technology until around 1960. As electric street lights replaced gas light, municipal companies turned towards industrial plants and, increasingly, to consumers.

Slowly, but faster after the second world war, oil replaced coal and gas for heating, as oil was both cheaper and safer, while, due to the invention of the electric light bulb, electricity replaced gas in lighting. Gas remained a viable option for cooking and for heating water.

Gas consumption was heavily influenced by the discovery of a large natural gas field in the North of the Netherlands in 1959. Natural gas consumption was encouraged with subsidies. The exploitation of the gas was entrusted to a state monopoly, Nederlandse Gasunie. This company built a dense pipeline distribution network, obviating the municipal companies and their storage facilities. Due to the greening of the country and more efficient technology, the company saw its turnover diminish from 1.7 billion euros in 2011 to 1.2 billion euros in 2018. In the framework of preventing climate change, a further downturn in use is to be expected, all the more because gas exploitation has made the land above the gas field unstable.

Gas meters


Municipal gas companies originally billed afterwards, as use could not be determined ahead of time. As they acquired more individual clients, problems with collecting bills mounted. The gas meter solved this problem. In 1888, R.W. Brownhills from Birmingham demonstrated a gas meter. His machine was adopted in the UK and, in 1895, in the Netherlands. Market leader was Elster & Co. This was a German producer, established in Berlin in 1848 by (Sigmar) Konrad Julius Jürgen Elster (1823–1891). The company relocated to Mainz in 1876. It was acquired by giant Ruhrgas in 1985, became part of Ruhrgas Industries in 2002 and was resurrected in 2005. It is now part of the Honeywell concern.

The picture shows a typical Elster gas meter around 1940. Centre top is the slot for the gas token. Directly underneath is a knob. After a token is inserted, this knob must be turned to allow the token to drop in the vault below and to activate the gas flow. The meter collector has a key to the vault, to be entered centre below while opening the vault door with the ring above the key hole. Picture source: Museum Rotterdam

Gas meters could not be used in combination with pilot lights in heaters. After the introduction of computers, it became possible to make individual estimates of future use and to account for advance payments. These developments eventually made the meters superfluous.

Gas meter tokens

There are some cases of private gas tokens. On the latest two, the issuer is unnamed. Gaspenning in brass was ordered from the Utrecht mint in 1962, one of the last series to be struck. Only 50 copies were made. The order came from VIHaMij (United Industry and Trading Company), a technical wholesaler that sold gas meters. The company was known as W. J. Stokvis before 1955. The aluminium variety was made for Meterfabriek Dordrecht (1957/1958). This company was established in 1858. It is now known as gAvilar. One of its products was gas meters. In view of the very small mintage, this may have been test tokens. In an earlier case, the intermediary was Benegas, a company established in 1932. The name Benegas dates from 1953. The final user was BuKa BV, owner of bungalow parks and campings. Another instance is that of LiMaGas, the Limburg Company for Gas distribution, a token that fits completely into the 1942 series. A further private token was produced for NCGM, Netherlands Continental Gas Company, with headquarters in Oosterbeek. The intermediary, Kronos (see below), ordered them in Germany, so they are likely to date from around 1924.

The tokens from the municipalities come in waves, each with its own distinct pattern:

  • 1918 - 1941 Interbellum tokens, often with a municipal coat of arms.
  • 1942 - 1945 Emergency issues due to a change in the circulating coins, one design only.
  • 1946 - 1963 Post-war issues.

Until 1945, the tokens quite often had the same diameter as the coins circulating in the Netherlands until 1941. After 1945, some municipalities reverted to this pattern, others followed the diameters of the coin series issued in 1948 (bronze) and 1954 (silver). The diameters of these two coin series are as follows:

Diameters of circulating coins
Denomination pre-war post-war
1 gulden 28 25
25 cent 19 19
10 cent 15 15
2½ cent 23.5 *
  • Mintage of 2½ cent pieces was stopped after 1942. The denomination no longer occurred in the 1948 coinage law.

Periods and designs

Originally, the meters took circulating coins: 2½ cent pieces. Three of those would buy a cubic meter of gas, but since the price of gas was 7 cents for a cubic meter, the collector had to repay the difference on emptying the coins from the meter. In addition, the number of coins needed for the meter was so large that a scarcity developed, while in big cities, collectors had to be accompanied by a person carrying his voluminous and heavy load of coins.

In the first world war, gas became scarce, raising its price and the number of coins needed for payment. As trade recovered in 1918, tokens were introduced. The municipality of Roermond, vulnerable to scarcity of Dutch coins because it is outside the centre of the country and in a poor mining area, ordered tokens at the Dutch mint in Utrecht. The experiment must have been a success, because in 1920, 23 other municipalities, including Amsterdam and Rotterdam, ordered tokens as well. The Utrecht mint offered aluminium tokens that lightened the load of the meter collectors. In the years that followed, more and more municipalities joined the bandwagon.

Meanwhile, the price of a cubic meter of gas had risen to around 16 cents. The obvious solution was the sell the tokens for a higher price, but they often had the same diameter as the 2½ cent coin. To discourage the continued use of the coin, the Utrecht mint could clip a small half circle out of the edge of the token. As these notches were added later or separately, they are not in a fixed position. Another solution was a central hole, sometimes in combination with a notch. The coins could still be used in emergencies, provided that they had a do-it-yourself notch, but they had to be exchanged for a token when the collector came to avoid a fine. Another solution was to denominate the token not in money but in either ⅓ or 1 cubic meters. Only a few municipalities changed the usual diameter (23.5 mm) of the tokens: De Rijp, Leeuwarden, Schoten, Vaals, Waddinxveen, Zaandam, Zandvoort and Zwolle.

The tokens led to a new problem: because many had the same diameter and notch, they could easily be used elsewhere. This explains the tokens that should not have received a notch or a central hole, but got one anyway. There are also tokens that should have been clipped or holed, but were not. They come from the showcases of travelling salesmen.

In May 1940, the nazis occupied the Netherlands. The nazis had hopes of winning over the Dutch royal family, evacuated to the UK and Canada. Instead, the royal family, including German-born prince Bernard, became a thorn in their sides. In 1942, nazi policy changed to purging the house of Orange from Dutch culture. Part of that policy was to recall all circulating coins and replacing them with zinc coins. The 2½ cent went from 23.5 to 20 mm, a diameter that would not be accepted by gas meters. The Utrecht mint rose to the occasion by coming up with a single token design by nazi sympathiser Nico de Haas for all municipalities, differing only by the name of the municipality, all in zinc and in up to four denominations: 2½ cent (23.5 mm), 10 cent (15 mm), 25 cent (19 mm) and 100 cent (28 mm), the diameters of the pre-war coins. In 1943, they produced traditional coat of arms tokens at a different diameter for Ede and in 1944 they made a similar run of tokens for Leeuwarden.

The post-war period saw a number of trends, the biggest by far of which was a continuation of tokens with pre-war designs (Dokkum preferred wartime designs) in aluminium and brass and a diameter of 23.5 mm, the dimension of pre-war 2½ cent pieces, now no longer in circulation.

New circulation coins were introduced in 1948 and some municipalities followed suit with diameters of 15 mm (10 cent), 19 mm (25 cent, Zaandam and Zandvoort only) and 25 mm (1 gulden, Amsterdam and Borne only). These new coins size tokens were practically all in brass, with the exception of Maassluis, Sittard (both zinc), Amsterdam and Borne ( both aluminium). Many used a pre-war pattern, but Heerlen, Maassluis, Meppel, Oisterwijk, Rheden, Sittard, Veghel and Woerden (on one side) let the wartime design stand.

That leaves the post-war tokens of Eindhoven, Heerlen, Tilburg and Zeist, with diameters without a relation to coins, executed in brass or aluminium and all in pre-war patterns.

The introduction of domestic natural gas around 1960 led to some special issues, mostly by adding a star-shaped central hole. Soon, consumption of natural gas rose explosively, as it replaced oil heating. This spelled the end of the gas tokens. The last were dated 1963, for the municipality of The Hague.


Most Dutch gas meter tokens were produced by the Utrecht mint. The mint was a government enterprise. It had a monopoly for coins, but not for tokens. However, the mint had some advantages, such as proximity and experience acquired by striking the circulation coins and in particular the 2½ cent coin that most tokens were based on. In the period 1920 - 1930, there were alternative suppliers.

The most successful was the Vienna mint, which struck coins for Alkmaar, Almelo, Bergen, Heiloo, Lemsterland and Sneek, all 23.5 mm brass, undated or dated 1920. The Vienna mint may have recycled spent shell cases for these tokens. The Utrecht mint resisted using them for bicycle tax tokens, finding them of inferior quality. The Vienna mint provided Delft with copper gas tokens dated 1921 and 1922.

Germany was another option, as it also used gas meters and tokens. The Lauer company from Nuremberg, known for its jetons and play money, produced tokens for Dordrecht in 1921 and 1924. An unnamed German mint made undated tokens for Amersfoort, Barradeel, Bolsward, Coevorden, Hengelo, Krabbendijke, Kruiningen, Oost Flakkee and NCGM with a Dutch company, Kronos being the intermediary. The Amersfoort token order was dated 1924. All are brass and 23 mm with a pattern of circles. Almelo (1926), Terschelling (no date) and Waddinxveen (1923) ordered tokens in Germany in other metals and sizes with a different pattern.

Domestic competition was restricted to silverware and medal factory Koninklijke Nederlandsche Edelmetaal Bedrijven Van Kempen, Begeer en Vos. This company was the successor of a Utrecht silver smithy established in 1764 by Johannes van Kempen. Johannes' grandson, another Johannes turned the smithy into a factory, opened in 1858. In 1919, the company merged with those of the Begeer and Vos families and concentrated production in Voorschoten. While a member of the Begeer family led the company, Van Kempen eventually moved on to a competitor, so that the company became popularly known as "Begeer". Begeer's clients for gas tokens were the municipalities of Den Helder, Schipluiden and Zwijndrecht. The tokens are mostly 23.5 mm and brass, but Zwijndrecht also received aluminium tokens. Schipluiden's tokens have the municipal arms, the others show a gas meter. Photo: Begeer's main building. Source: Vorstelijk Vrij


Kooij mentions a 1925 token for Waddinxveen from Dutch company Isala NV. Nothing is known about this company. It may have been an intermediary.

Using the catalogue

The quickest way to find a token is to start typing the name of the issuing city in the search field (upper right of each page). Disregard words like gasfabriek (gas plant), gaspenning (gas token), goed voor (good for) and gemeente (municipality).

Remember that you can see an enlargement by double clicking on a picture.

Weights and diameters are the official numbers. Observed weights and diameters differ slightly, mostly downward.

Go to the Main Page for more information on intellectual and picture property.


A.J. Kooij, Catalogus van Nederlandse betaal- en reclamepenningen, third edition, ISBN 9789070067267