Regarding on recent discussion of aluminum in numismatics, Dave Schenkman forwarded some relevant text excerpts from his December, 1990
TAMS Journal article on the topic. Thanks! -Editor
Early Dated Aluminum Tokens and Medals
Most collectors of tokens issued during the 1876 Centennial are familiar with the attractive 39mm issues of Stiner Tea Company of New
York City. While normally encountered in brass, copper, or white metal, an example in aluminum, with the Independence Hall 1876-dated
reverse, is known to exist, as is a specimen struck in leather. We must assume that these extremely rare tokens were made for some
special purpose, or possibly to the order of a collector at a later date.
Stranger yet is a token advertising W. A. Bunting & Son of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This firm, which manufactured stencils, steel
and rubber stamps, seals, etc., very likely also struck tokens and medals. Their piece, which is struck in aluminum, depicts the
Trademen's Industrial Institute on its reverse and is dated 1876. Some collectors point to it as the earliest aluminum token.
Although I can't state that the token was, without question, manufactured sometime after the 1876 date would suggest, another W.
A. Bunting & Son piece in my collection was struck with the same obverse die. Its reverse pictures the battleship Maine, with the
inscription REMEMBER THE MAINE / DESTROYED / FEB. 15, 1898. My theory is that both tokens were struck in the late 1890s. This assumption
is strengthened by the existence of yet another Bunting token, struck in white metal or lead, with the same "Trademen's
Industrial Institute" reverse die. Its obverse differs in that the firm's name is given as W. A. Bunting; evidently in 1876
"& Son" was not part of the company name.
Benjamin P. Wright, in his American Business Tokens (originally published between 1898 and 1901 in various issues of The Numismatist),
lists as number 1665 an intriguing aluminum piece. Its obverse depicts "The Educator" (Dr. William L. Johnson, according to
Wright), while the reverse depicts an all-seeing eye on a bar, within three circles; around this is the legend SINCERELY THINE TO BLESS
and the date, 1885. If the fact that I own two specimens is any indicator, the piece is not especially rare.
While Wright provides us with the meaning of the all-seeing eye, etc., he ignores the oddest feature of the token -- its 1885 date. It
seems unlikely that the piece was struck during that year, a time when the cost of aluminum was eight dollars a pound. As mentioned
earlier, Charles Hall didn't graduate from college until 1885, and the first aluminum was not produced by his process until the
Pre-Columbian Exposition Aluminum Tokens and Medals
In 1888 aluminum was still a relatively expensive metal to produce. However, aluminum medals were struck during that year. For
example, the Schwaab Stamp & Seal Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin produced an attractive piece for the 25th North American
Saengerfest, held in St. Louis, Missouri during June, 1888. Issued as "a souvenir of the Cream City," the 38mm medal depicts a
panoramic view of Milwaukee Bay, with the city in the background.
By the following year the manufacture of exonumia in aluminum was no longer a rare occurrence. The 1889 centennial of George
Washington's inauguration was occasion for the issuance of many commemorative medals, and the well known Chicago die sinking firm, S.
D. Childs and Company, seized the opportunity to strike pieces in the "new metal." One of these has, on its obverse, a bust of
Washington facing left with the inscription WASHINGTON CENTENNIAL. The reverse legend of the 37mm piece extols the qualities of aluminum
as MALLEABLE, / TASTELESS, SONOROUS, / DUCTILE, / UNTARNISHABLE. / ALUMINUM / CUBIC FOOT OF GOLD, 1204 LBS. / " " ALUMINUM, 179
" / THIS MEDAL / IS PURE.
Having cut this reverse die, Childs, a practical businessman, offered it to other prospective customers for aluminum medals. It is
found on the reverse of a souvenir piece issued for the state of Nebraska's silver anniversary in 1892, and on a medal for the
Mitchell, South Dakota, Corn Belt Exposition held that same year. A medal for the 1892-3 Columbian Exposition was also struck with the
die, as were various other pieces issued during the early 1890s.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
EARLY USES OF ALUMINUM AS A COMMON METAL
Wayne Homren, Editor
The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization
promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at coinbooks.org.
To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor
at this address: email@example.com
To subscribe go to: https://my.binhost.com/lists/listinfo/esylum
Copyright © 1998 - 2020 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.
NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster