Scott L. writes: I live in East Texas and recently discovered what I believed to be a token, however after a light cleaning I have discovered a ribbed edge similar to that of a dime which leads me to believe it is a coin of some type. It is smaller than a dime in size approx. 15mm, but similar in thickness. First impression is that it is copper, as it has the appearance of many of the wheats that I have unearthed, yet it has a few small nicks that show much more luster than any of the coppers I’ve found. It is also noticably heavier than any penny I have compared it with. The reverse has the raised letters “PAT JULY 23, 1872 *” as well as a raised circle in the center. The obverse has a ribbed five pointed star which covers the face of the coin. “ST” and “AR” are to the left and right respectively of the top point. “H. B& H” wrap the two bottom points of the star.
Both the reverse and obverse have a raised rim with the reverse being smooth and the obverse beaded. The star leads me to believe it is a Texas coin but I have been unable find any information. The Red Book has no information on it. Do you have any ideas on what this object is?
From the Civil War period to well into the twentieth century, trade and merchant tokens were commonly used as small change, mostly as cents. In the Civil War period the privately issued tokens served a real need, since coins of all types were hoarded for their metal content. After the Civil War, the habit was already well established and merchants realized that giving out a token instead of a cent, was a sure way to get customers to return to their establishment.
Dozens of engravers and token-makers sent salesmen on the road to sell tokens to merchants. I’ll speculate that the token you have is a sample design, part of a sample kit of designs, offered to perspective merchants. The use of “Pat (Patent) date” also indicates a sample other than a finished merchant token. Also, gun manufacturers commonly stamped Pat “(Date)” into standard U.S. coins, probably to test the punches that were used to mark firearms, knives, axes and other tools. Your “PAT” is raised not incuse in your token indicating that the Patent date was part of the original die. Approximate collector value: $10 -$35.