A Tour Through A Guide Book of United States Coins, Part Twenty-Four

Collecting tokens and medals with the portrait of George Washington has been a passionate pursuit for many numismatists past and present Indeed, in the late 1850s, when coin collecting became widely popular in the United States, the hottest tickets in the marketplace were Washington tokens! This is hard to believe today, but it is true. The reason is that Edward Everett gave dozens of speeches to raise money to restore Mount Vernon, Washington’s home, creating nationwide interest in the Father of our Country and his heritage. At the same time, James Ross Snowden, director of the Mint, set about forming a large collection of Washington pieces that was eventually dedicated on February 22, 1860, that being Washington’s birthday. Snowden purchased pieces he needed and also made restrikes and patterns to trade. At the same time, many private tokens were issued relating to Washington and the Revolutionary War. Today in 2015 it is difficult to imagine that such pieces once led the market.

Today, the standard reference on Washington pieces is The Medallic Portraits of Washington, by Russell Rulau and George Fuld, issued by Krause Publications. This uses Baker numbers, based on a text by W.S. Baker published in the 19th century, but vastly updated. A Guide Book of United States Coins devotes a special section to Washington pieces, beginning on page 79, these being tokens dated up to and including 1795, the cut off date.

Enthusiasts of Civil War tokens have a number of Washington issues to choose from as well. All told, there are hundreds of 19th-century tokens and medals pertaining to Washington, and many since then, not to overlook Washington quarters issued from 1932 to date.  A collection of the 50 Statehood quarters is interesting and inexpensive. I enjoy mine.

To my knowledge no one has ever attempted to collect all of the tokens and medals with Washington’s portrait. A good place to start is with the Guide Book listings. A less expensive place is with Civil War tokens, many of which are much rarer than the Guide Book-listed pieces, but at a tiny fraction of the cost as not many people know about them.

See you next week.

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