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An Important Lincoln Civil War Token Die

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I have heard some collectors say that they were interesting in coins, but had absolutely no interest in the dies that produced them. Although I can understand this opinion from a budgetary standpoint (You can't buy everything!) I still can’t see why the die that struck something in your collection that you admire could be of so little interest.


I recently acquired this Lincoln Civil War token die at auction. It produced Fuld Civil War token # 131, and it was also used to Sullivan-DeWitt number AL 1864-32. According to Fuld it was married to two different reverse dies, and he lists it has an R-8, 5 to 10 known for each of the die combination and metal compositions reported. It piece probably falls in that rarity range because I have seen very few of these pieces offered for sale either at auction or in dealer inventories.


This piece was struck to mark the opening of the Union League which came into existence during the Civil War to support pro-Union candidates. Later the organization, which still exits today, became pretty much of a Elephant Party organization.




The die is one of one of only a handful of Civil War tokens dies that are known to exist. The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania of F.C. Key and Sons produced this die for the 1864 presidential election. Fuld speculates that the pieces that made of a composition of other copper or bronze were restrikes that were made at a latter date.


The Key Company was active in making tokens in the 1850s and ‘60s. There die executions were first rate. One of the sons, William Key, landed a job at the U.S. mint and is in a famous group picture that provides us with one of the most recognizable images of Chief Mint Engraver, Charles Barber.




I have few other dies, but none are as nice or important as this one. All of the U.S. coin dies, which include Proof 1968-S nickel dies and a die for the flag bearer $5 gold from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, have been defaced, of course. I do have an intact die for a merchant token that was issued circa 1900, but that piece is not of great collector interest.

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Cancelled dies with the design mostly intact are really cool. I have a few of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics Commem dies which were sold by the mint. Those dies sold by the mint with the design totally ground off are worthless in my opinion.

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I think that is very cool, if you had the reverse die as well you could start making more tokens!


This has been a very big concern for some dealers who specialize in 19th century tokens. The late Steve Tanenbaum very interested in acquiring items such as this and donating them to collector organizations like the ANA to get them “out of circulation.” As a collector who prefers to see things in private hands as opposed to organizations that “ration” access to items like this, I don’t agree.


To answer your question Steve Hayden, a major token dealer, claims that only five CWT dies are known to the hobby. They are Fuld numbers 123, 129, 131, 153 and 174. I have a copy of a piece the Central States Numismatic Association issued in the late 1930s that used die # 129. It was struck in aluminum and has a different, modern reverse. As such I don’t think that it represents a problem.


But, yes, the possibility of abuses exists because the survival of old dies, but from a historical aspect, it has not been a problem A LONG TIME after the tokens were struck. Yes, companies like the Key Company did produce restrike examples, but in modern times it has not been a problem.


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Bill, you have the coolest stuff and great stories to go with it. I hope you give us ample notice when you will be setting up a display at a coin show. I, for one, would love to come view your collection and just be amazed at it. I hope you are giving a display some consideration at some point. Thank you again for sharing your treasures.:)

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