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Garys December Coin of the Month

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coinsbygary

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I know my December piece is a little early, but Ive been working feverishly on my owner comments for The Use of Seated Imagery in Numismatics custom set. I just finished the owner comments for this token last night and its history is so interesting to me that I had to post it. Ill post the other supporting pictures on the chat boards.

NY 1863 NEW YORK F-630AM-1a CHRISTOPH KARL:

There are coins in this set that are difficult to describe, and this 1863 store card is one of them. That said, I will convey the little I known about Christoph Karl in my owner comments. Then taking into account the historical context of this token, I will give a plausible explanation of the allegories present on this beautiful token from New York City featuring Germania, the national personification of Germany.

Due to the hoarding of hard currency during the Civil War, merchants issued tokens and store cards in lieu of coins for use in their stores. Most of those tokens included the name of the establishment and its merchandise on the token. Other tokens were political in nature. However, this token gives only the name of the proprietor and the business address in New York. After numerous Google searches I found two sources stating that Christoph Karls establishment was either a liquor store or a saloon. I also found that Christoph Karl was born in Bavaria in 1824 and that he immigrated to the United States sometime between his birth in 1824 and 1859. In the following paragraphs, I will offer a theorem as to how and when Christoph Karl came to the United States using the allegory illustrated on this token.

Starting in February of 1848 in France, a wave of nationalist political uprisings against the European autocracies erupted across the entire continent, including the German Confederation (1815-1866). The revolutionaries had hoped to usher in a new era of democracy and social reform in Europe. For many reasons, the revolutionaries failed to bring about the reforms they were fighting to gain. Following their loss, many of the revolutionaries fearing for their lives fled their homes to start anew in other countries. With the nickname Forty-Eighters, thousands of Germanic people immigrated to the United States. Many of those immigrants settled in the northern states due to their objection to slavery. I believe that Christoph Karl was among the Forty-Eighters settling in New York City.

The obverse of this token features Germania seated close to a body of water with hills in the background. She is stretching her right arm over the land in an altruistic, calming manner. Behind her is the standard of the German Confederation with the tincture matching that of the black, red, and yellow colors of the German Confederation Flag. The shield is representative of the German Confederation arms with a double-headed eagle against a yellow background. Germania is wearing a more generic mural crown as opposed to a royal or imperialistic crown. At the base of the shield are oak branches representing strength and independence. Above the shield is the hilt of a sword showing a readiness to fight if necessary. The reverse features a harp representing harmony or perhaps unity. An oak wreath surrounds the harp with a radiant five-pointed star at the opening reminiscent of the approved, but not fully embraced, 1848 German Confederation Coat of arms.

Not deterred by their earlier failures, I believe many of the Forty-Eighters took up the battle against the autocracies of Europe from their adopted homelands. Being a naturalized American citizen, Christoph Karl could now exercise his right to free speech without fear of reprisal. The lack of hard circulating currency during the Civil War was the perfect opportunity for a proprietor like Christoph Karl to continue to speak out against the reigning autocracies of the German states. Thus, I believe, given the absence of the business name on this token, that it should be numbered among those tokens making a political statement. Coins and tokens are excellent mediums in which to promote political causes. With the likelihood that a number of Germanic people and those sympathetic to the cause would frequent Christoph Karls establishment, this token was likely effective in promoting the cause of an independent German state.

The picture substituting for the reverse of this coins owner comments is an 1848 painting of Germania, the personification of Germany. In it, the standard is that of the liberal nationalists and the rays of a rising sun is the beginning of a new era. Germanias crown of oak leaves denotes heroism, her breastplate, strength, her sword, power, and the hemp branch a willingness to make peace. At Germanias feet are broken chains, symbolic of being set free. To the right of Germania is the 1848 German Confederation Coat of Arms. Notice the similarity between the star on the token and the picture. The arms are very similar in meaning to the imagery of the harp.

One of the things I find interesting concerning Germania is the way differing groups manipulate her for their own purposes. For instance, the revolutionaries were using the imagery of Germania on this token to promote their cause. On the other hand, the Prussians with the 1871 Victory Thaler manipulated Germania to strengthen Emperor Wilhelms status. These two positions could not be more opposed to one another.

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