The E-Sylum:  Volume 5, Number 39, September 29, 2002, Article 5


  Christopher Rivituso's note about phone box tokens in Italy
  elicited a number of new responses:

  Neil Shafer writes: "With reference to Italian telephone
  tokens in circulation, I believe the years they were thus
  used were 1975-78 for sure, possibly also earlier and
  later.  Those were the years of the severe coin shortage
  in Italy that spawned the issuance of a large variety of
  Mini-assegni, small checks from a number of banks that
  circulated in place of the vanished coinage.  Along with
  those mini-checks were some private tokens and these
  telephone tokens.  As I recall, their value was pegged at
  50 lire.  Does anyone have more definitive information on
  this?  My interest was mainly the mini-assegni but I did
  get several examples of the hard money as well."

  Ted Buttrey writes:  "I go back and forth to Italy, and my
  aging brain will not now allow me to give exact dates; but
  you might know of a period some years ago when
  small-change coins of all values were simply unobtainable
  in Italy.  Telephone tokens were at least monetiform, and
  had the fixed value of 200 lire.  Otherwise people were
  using the smallest wrapped piece of candy, at 10 lire --
  I used them at toll stations on the highway -- and many
  banks issued small denomination paper.   When some of
  them got in trouble for printing notelets of 100, 500 or
  1000 lire they retaliated by issuing them in odd
  denominations like 150 lire.

  I can remember being in a shop in Sicily where the customer
  proffered such a small note, and it was refused -- not
  because it was paper, because that stuff circulated
  everywhere, but because the shopkeeper read it first, found
  that it came from a bank in northern Italy, and didn't know
  if he could get rid of it.  None of this stuff was legal tender,
  of course, but without it small transactions would have been
  impossible.  I seem to recall that this situation lasted well
  over a year.   The banks must have made a nice profit from
  the notes that were never redeemed.  Come to think of it, I
  wonder -- though I have no idea -- whether any of the notelets
  were produced purely to profit from collectors, who wouldn't
  ever redeem them, like much of the German Notgeld of the

  [Interesting experience.  You know, E-Sylum readers have
   great vocabularies.  Your editor hasn't seen the word
  "monetiform"  before - can someone provide a definition?]

  Bruce Purdue adds: "In 1973 I was stationed in Istanbul,
  Turkey with the U.S. Air Force and "getton" or "gettone" was
  the word used in Turkey for the phone tokens... perhaps this
  is a European term.   After some thought I realized that in
  Turkey it was a "Jeton", which is the french word for token ...
  older version was "jetton".

  I found the following information using "Google".  This is from

  "Our town recently started a jitney. My friends and I could
  not come to an agreement on the origin of the word.  Is it a
  word for a nickel or some pacific slang for an American jeep?

  Funnily enough, both guesses have an element of truth.  Such
  a vehicle was originally called a jitney bus because when it
  was introduced (around 1900) the standard fare was one
  nickel and the then current slang for a nickel was a jitney.
  But why was a nickel called a jitney?  One theory is that it
  comes from jetton (from the French jeton), "a gambling token",
  but this is not widely accepted.

  The Philippines has a kind of bus called a jeepney.  This is a
  portmanteau word formed from jeep + jitney."

  Kavan Ratnatunga adds that Ceylon has a telephone token
  from WWII.  "It's associated with a change in the 10-cent
  coin    from Silver to copper.   It was need to let the phone
  booths to continue to operate."
  For more information, see his web page:

  Wayne Homren, Editor

Google Web
The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization 
promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor 
at this address:

To subscribe go to:
Copyright © 2005 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society.



Copyright © 1998 - 2005 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.

NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster