Numismatic News published an article by Richard Graff about a token pressed into service during the coin shortage of 1964. Interesting! I wasn't aware of this story.
In 1964 the value of silver was frozen by the Treasury at $1.293 a troy ounce. At any higher price, the silver in a silver dollar would be worth more than face value. The public expected that it would be only a matter of time before this threshold would be crossed and began to hoard silver coins of all denominations.
This in turn caused a coin shortage. On July 23, 1965, Congress enacted the Coinage Act of 1965, which eliminated silver from the circulating dimes and quarter dollars of the United States and diminished the silver content of the half dollar from 90 percent to 40 percent.
This piece of legislation had far reaching consequences; ironically the most immediate was to increase the coin shortage.
Now go back to 1959 and the state of Oregon. That year marked the centennial of Oregon statehood and plans were made to celebrate the occasion in a big way. A token was designed and samples struck with a common obverse depicting the official centennial logo with the reverse to be determined by the participating municipalities. The plan was for cities and counties to purchase the tokens to sell to their residents as souvenirs. This revenue would be kept by the municipality to offset the expense of their local celebrations.
These trial strikes were promoted throughout the state. In all, to the best of my knowledge, 34 cities and counties bought into the program, most using the official logo obverse, but a few went with their own designs on both sides. There was even one token produced for an Oregon coin club and one for a private individual. The tokens were 33mm in diameter, the standard version produced in gilt bronze, but some of the municipalities went with an additional variety in silver plate. The mintages ranged from 1,000 to 30,000 of any given example. This makes for a good-size collection if one wishes to obtain a complete set.
I started a type collection six months ago with the intent of acquiring one sample of each design without regard to all the varieties. I have 11 left to find. So at this point you might be asking what do the Oregon centennial tokens of 1959 have to do with the coin shortage of 1964?
In the southern part of Oregon is a town called Grants Pass, which participated in the token program of 1959. They purchased 20,000 of them. They were one of the municipalities to go with their own design on both sides. The obverse is unique and would be a story itself. The reverse promotes Grants Pass, proclaims the token to be good for 50 cents in trade or redeemable at face value at local merchants and gives an expiration date. It is unknown how many they sold, but there was evidently a surplus when the party was over. This surplus sat collecting dust until 1964.
When Grants Pass began to feel the effects of the coin shortage, someone got the bright idea to put the surplus tokens into circulation at the stated value of 50 cents. The only problem was the stated expiration date of 5 P.M. SATURDAY OCTOBER 31, 1959. The solution was to grind off the expiration date to avoid confusion and then release the tokens into circulation.
I cannot tell you which version is the rarer of the two, but it is a certainty that two versions of this token exist as a direct result of the 1964 coin shortage.
To read the complete article, see:
Coin Shortage Creates Token Tale
Wayne Homren, Editor
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