[ek-suh-noo-mee-uh, -nyoo-]

Exonumia is the study of coin-like objects such as token coins and medals, and other items used in place of legal currency or for commemoration. This includes elongated coins, encased coins, souvenir medallions, tags, badges, counterstamped coins, wooden nickels and other similar items. It is related to numismatics proper (concerned with coins which have been legal tender), and many coin collectors are also exonumists.

Besides the above strict definition, others extend it to include non-coins which may or may not be legal tenders such as cheques, credit cards and similar paper. These can also be considered notaphily or scripophily. The noun exonumia is derived from two classical roots: exo, meaning "out-of" in Greek, and nummus, meaning "coin" in Latin; thus, "out[side]-of-[the category]coins". Usually, the term "exonumia" is applied to these objects in the United States, while the equivalent British term is paranumismatica.

The words exonumist and exonumia were coined in July 1960 by Russell Rulau, a recognized authority and author on the subject, and accepted by Webster's dictionary in 1965.

Items such as bus tokens (transportation tokens), bar or pub tokens, and casino tokens or chips are some of the more common forms of exonumia. Related, but normally considered to be a different branch of numismatics, is odd and curious money. Another important area of token collecting is Latin American coffee or plantation tokens. Many but not all of these tokens were made in the states while others were made in Europe and England. You will find these tokens circulated in more than one language although Spanish is the prevalent one. Plantation tokens can have an array of denominations and names. The name can be the owner or their relatives. Sometimes the token can have the name of the farm or finca. Lastly, tokens had allegorical symbols to identify the owner. Very little documentation exists since the inception of Latin American tokens, therefore, many tokens cannot be verified as to who the real owner is or what the symbol or symbols meant.

Tokens in Latin America were used as currency since there wasn't enough official currency available. Customarily, workers could convert the tokens to official currency on Saturdays. It is widely understood that many plantation owners in Latin America had their own commissaries, therefore, the workers were able to use the farm owners tokens to pay for provisions. It is important to note that in the 19th century many of the plantation workers and families lived on the farm they worked on.

Latin American tokens were made in all types of base metals and alloys plus plastic, celluloid and bakelite. Unique to Costa Rica were tokens made in paper fashion, either uniface or printed on both sides. Many people call these paper chits. The word "Boleto" is used solely in Costa Rica for the word token whereas "ficha" is used in the rest of Latin America.

Other forms

  • "Love Tokens " - Legal coinage engraved for a loved one.
  • Hobo nickels - Usually "buffalo nickels" engraved crudely by hand mostly in that era (1913-38)
  • "Tax Tokens"
  • "Encased coins"
  • "Encased Postage"
  • "Game counters"
  • Geocoins
  • "Good for Mirrors"
  • "Shell cards"
  • Telephone tokens
  • "Gambling/casino chips" See Casino token
  • Elongated coins
  • "Civil War Tokens"
  • Hard times token
  • "Dog License Tags"
  • "Counterstamped Coins"
  • "Military Tokens"
  • "Transportation Tokens"
  • "Parking Tokens"
  • "Wooden nickel"
  • "Medals" - both privately minted and minted by governments

See also


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