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V11 2008 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

The E-Sylum: Volume 11, Number 23, June 8, 2008, Article 6

BOOK REVIEW: A GUIDE BOOK OF U.S. TOKENS AND MEDALS BY KATHERINE JAEGER

Guide Book of U.S. Tokens & MedalsWhitman Publishing forwarded me a few sample chapters of Katie Jaeger's upcoming book, A Guide Book of United States Tokens and Medals. It's an ambitious work that I feel will succeed in its purpose: introducing the collecting of tokens and medals to a much wider audience. I'll look forward to seeing the book in regular bookstores, available to the general public.

It's an ambitious work because the subject field is so vast, which explains why so few authors have attempted to climb that mountain. Katie is an accomplished numismatic researcher, but she is a relative newcomer to our field, and maybe it took the fresh perspective of an outsider to look past the forest and see the magnificent trees. Jaeger's book does not attempt to cover every single subspecialty, but it does an excellent job of organizing and introducing the highlights of the field.

The first work I'm aware of that attempted to address the entire field was published in 1992 by Stephen P. Alpert and Lawrence E. Elman, Tokens and Medals: A Guide to the Identification and Values of United States Exonomia. Their 300-page softbound guide was divided into 67 chapters and three appendices, and was illustrated with black and white rubbings.

In 2003 the Token and Medal Society (TAMS) published a related work by Gregory C. Brunk titled Exonumia Journal Articles: A Guide for Identifying Tokens and Medals from the 1600s to Current Times. The 71-page unillustrated bibliography was published as a special issue of the TAMS Journal (Volume 43, No 1). The book covered not just the U.S., but the entire world.

Jaeger's Preface clearly states which categories of U.S. exonumia are NOT included, such as U.S. Military medals and decorations, sports medals and religious medals. The wide array of items which ARE included are organized very neatly into seven main parts, each of which has up to several chapters. Each chapter is further neatly divided into sections.

Though the casual reader will undoubtedly give little notice to the book's organization, I'm sure a great deal of thought and preparation went into designing its hierarchy and sequencing. Organizing this vast field into an easy-to-grasp taxonomy is no casual task. When I lived in New Jersey and told people where I was from, they often asked, "Which exit?" In the future, when someone mentions to a fellow numismatist that they collect tokens or medals, the response could well be "Which chapter?"

Chapter 3 covers one of my favorite areas, Civil War Tokens, encompassing Encased Postage Stamps, Token Currency, Patriotic Tokens, Store Cards, and Sutlers' Tokens. Chapter 8, Government-Sponsored Tokens covers Civilian Conservation Corps tokens, Alaskan "bingles", Sales Tax tokens, OPA ration tokens, internment camp tokens and food stamp change tokens.

Guide book of U.S. Tokens and Medals The publisher's web page describes the field this way:
Americans have used tokens and medals to encourage business, lampoon politicians, celebrate special events, pay fares, promote social causes, award the deserving, and scold the wicked. In the Guide Book of United States Tokens and Medals, award-winning author Katherine Jaeger explores these fascinating and collectible pieces of American history, from colonial times to today. Thousands of full-color illustrations, market values, and a grading guide add to the book's reference value.


The book does not attempt to provide a checklist of known items of each type. Rather, it illustrates and prices a small illustrative selection of pieces.

Dennis Tucker of Whitman Publishing writes:
I know I say this about every new release (how could I not? I love numismatics and I love books!), but this one was a real treat to work on. It was a HUGE project with "lots of moving parts," but that was part of the fun. The exonumia community is very generous with information, the ANS was able to supply hundreds of images (about 1/4 of the book's pictures), and the depth and breadth of artistry is amazing ... from plain-Jane OPA tokens to elaborate 19th-century expo medals and modern art medals. Katie, of course, is a consummate researcher and an entertaining writer, which can make the difference between a good, readable, useable reference and a dense, impenetrable dust-gatherer.


I'll look forward to seeing the complete book in print. I think Dennis is quite accurate in calling it "a good, readable, useable reference". I'm already thinking of buying a number of copies to distribute to young collectors as a way of introducing them to the wonders of exonomia.

The softcovered 6" x 9" book will be available in mid-June at a retail price of $19.95. See the Whitman Publishing web site for more information on A Guide Book of United States Tokens and Medals

Wayne Homren, Editor

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