Starting in the mid-1800s, New York City had a hodge-podge of companies providing transportation services throughout the city. The Atwood-Coffee Guide to Transportation Tokens lists over a dozen such hackneys and their tokens.
One of those companies was the Third Avenue Rail Road. Beginning services in the 1850’s, the company used mule driven trolleys to pull passengers.
Like many transportation services of the day, the Third Avenue Rail Road issued tokens to passengers for use as payment. The practice was prevalent for several reasons. First and foremost, they were issued for security. By requiring passengers to use tokens rather than cash, conductors did not accumulate large quantities of money that could then be lost in hold-ups.
Secondly, it kept conductors and drivers honest. By requiring passengers to use tokens, it ensured that neither conductors nor drivers could skim from the day’s till.
The Third Avenue Rail Road issued three varieties of tokens for their trolleys. Availability of these tokens are quite limited. Though no specific rarity is provided by Atwood-Coffee, over the last 3 years only one specimen has appeared in various online numismatic venues.
The first variety depicts an omnibus on its obverse, with four stars on its reverse. One star was engraved above, one below, and two on each side. Within, the word HARLEM is engraved. Atwood-Coffee catalogues this variety as NY630-M.
The second variety depicts a trolley on its obverse. On its reverse the word YORKVILLE is engraved, with a star above and below the word. Atwood-Coffee catalogues this variety as NY630-P.
Finally the third token is depicted below. Struck in white metal, Atwood-Coffee lists this variety as the NY630-Q.
The specimen is in Extra Fine grade, and was photographed using axial lighting with clear glass angled at 45 degrees.
Notes and Sources
A Guide Book of United States Tokens and Medals, Jaeger, Whitman, ©2008
The Atwood-Coffee Catalogue Fourth Edition Volume II, John M. Coffee Jr., AVA
The Atwood-Coffee Catalogue, John M. Coffee and Harold V. Ford, AVA
Library of Congress Digital Archives