Trade Tokens

Contributed by Larry Peterson

Trade tokens were used in Iowa starting in the late 1880's and used generally through the 1940's. Most stores stopped using them but some taverns and pool halls are still using tokens made of plastic or cardboard even today. The earlier tokens were usually made of aluminum or brass.

In the early days mercantile and general stores obtained many of their supplies directly from farmers and the farmers would be paid in tokens that they could redeem in the same store for goods. Dairies issued tokens as well. The housewife would put out a token (good for a pint of cream, quart of milk, etc.) so the deliveryman could tell what to leave.

Many denominations were used in the old tokens. Tokens are found that are good for 12 1/2 cents. These were usually used in saloons/bars where drinks were 2 for a quarter. The customer would pay his quarter, get a drink and a 12 1/2 cent token good for the other, when he cared to redeem it.

Tokens are a fascinating glimpse into early Iowa history and are very sought after today. ~ Larry Peterson

Click on photo for larger version. Dial-up modems might take awhile to download photo.

From Colfax, Iowa


From Jasper County