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Hoarding, Anyone?

Literature from every era shows people behaving in remarkably predictable ways. So, it wasn't too surprising that in checking out Civil War currency for Time-Crossed Christmas, I found a great example we can appreciate today.

What do we do when a shortage of something occurs--like toilet paper? Why, we hoard it, of course! That's exactly what happened during the Civil War to gold and silver coins. How could business and commerce take place when virtually no legal tender was available?

Well, ambitious merchants simply created and minted their own coins, called tokens, to keep their businesses from failing. Hence, patriotic, store, and sutler tokens came into being from 1861-1864. Sutlers were peddlers who served armies in their camps and accepted all three types. The only problem was if a business decided not to stand behind their tokens, there no way to make them.

Without the government backing tokens, eventually things got a bit out of hand, so by 1864 when the government put a stop to them, there were @25,000,000 tokens in circulation, nearly all worth about one cent each and almost 8,000 varieties.

Today, these coins are collector's items as shown in these examples of business tokens.


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