Standard Catalog of United States Tokens 1700-1900, 4th Edition
Book Review by Jan M. Dyroff
Russell Rulau, Iola: Krause Publications, 2004. $54.99
Every so often a book comes along that is a “must have” because it covers just about everything in its field, and this offering is such a one. In sheer physical size, it is 1,200 pages in length and contains 5,000 black and white photographs. As you might have guessed, this is another in the “Manhattan phone book” series of publications.
Russell Rulau, a Numismatic Literary Guild award winning author, has done an outstanding job of pulling together updated and revised pricing (in four condition grades), hundreds of new token listings, and an increased offering of detailed photographs. You might say that this is a magnum opus.
The scope of the book is truly amazing. It begins with the colonial period, continues through the days of the Revolution., into the period of Hard Times, through the Civil War (including tokens and cardboard chits) and into late nineteenth-century trade tokens. In short, this is a compendium of all the American token publications issued by Krause.
As an aside, when you check on-line booksellers for this item, it is highly regarded. The rating on Alibris is five stars out of five, and it is very easy to see why so many people like this book. In addition to the numismatic information and illustrations, it is eminently readable, a compendium of history.
The level of detail is impressive, and here is a case in point. I grew up in a town west of Philadelphia, along the Schuylkill River. Mr. Rulau lists, and illustrates, a very early, very rare pair of tokens (6-1/4 cents and 12-1/2 cents) for the Feather Hotel, which he locates to an exact address, along with providing the pedigree of the owners, which was developed with the help of present-day members of the family.
Getting off on the right foot, the book begins with a consideration of rarity ratings, which is absolutely necessary if you are coming to the world of tokens where known examples may be counted in single numbers instead of multi-millions. Also as part of the introduction are passages on types of private tokens, token makers and a list of die sinkers.
The world of nineteenth-century tokens is filled with many common and exotic types. Many pieces are imitative of the U.S. large cent while others actually are large cnts but with counterstamps. And in the midst of advertising items for the everyday person are the very private and rare pieces issued by and for clubs at Harvard College. For collectors of items from their home towns, taking Massachusetts as an example, tokens were issued from the villages of the Berkshires to fishing towns along the Atlantic coast.
Hard times tokens, and cardboard chits (like from the boat Sarah Louis out of Troy, New York, on the Troy and Ohio Line) are a source of constant fascination. Curiously enough there is a Harvard hard times token – for the town that was home to the Alcotts and their community at Fruitland not for the College. Such tokens may be the only contribution made to numismatics by many communities.
In sum, this book is encyclopedic in coverage. It is devotedly researched, well written and lavishly illustrated. It gets the highest of recommendations, and if you are able to do so it is well worth the acquisition.
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