Postscript Note: This article has been revised since it was originally published. Additional clarification has been added to the Table of N.C. Folger token Varieties, as well as additional illustrations have been added. Aaron Packard, 9 May 2016

Nathan C. Folger c.1855

Nathan C. Folger, c.1855

Of the many token varieties listed in Wright, Miller, and Rulau, few are as difficult to attribute than the merchant token emissions of Nathan C. Folger.

Collectors will find that this is not because the emissions consist of a vast number of obscure differences, but rather because the aforementioned authors did an incredibly confusing job of documenting the varieties.

Aside from the assorted metallic planchet compositions and reeded edges, there are but only a few variations in both the tokens’ obverse and reverse designs.

Indeed, after careful analysis of all emissions, there exist but only two major obverse types and two major reverse types. After factoring in planchet types and edges, there are only 13 different varieties.

To date, Edgar H. Adams, in his May 1915 article in The Numismatist, was the least confusing in his descriptions of the Folger pieces. While his work was not comprehensive of all known Folger emissions, it was this article which provided the necessary details to accurately describe all of the emissions.

Biography

Nathan C. Folger was born in Hudson New York in 1810.  On New Year’s day 1830 Folger arrived in the city of New Orleans.  Immediately upon his arrival he engaged in the retail clothing business. Sometime thereafter, he opened his own clothing store at 33 Old Levee.  This is evident by his first store card emission, Rulau HT-177 dated 1837, pictured below.

HT-177 Nathan C. Folger Hard Times Token

Sometime in that same year, Folger’s business failed. From that time in 1837 through 1842, he relocated back to New York City. It is unknown what profession he pursued during his time back in New York, nor exactly when he came back to New Orleans.

However, in 1849 Folger formed a partnership with Thomas N. Blake, a previous competitor in New Orleans.  After a few years Blake disappeared from the venture’s name, and Folger evidently became the firm’s sole proprietor.

N.C. Folger's Clothing Store

Folger’s son, Charles W. joined the firm in 1855.  About three years thereafter, Folger’s two other sons, Fred G. and Nathan C. Jr., also joined the firm.

Folger’s clothing business remained in operation until 1862.  Most probably due to the Civil War the firm closed. Nathan C. Folger didn’t appear again in New Orleans directories until 1867, when he was listed as a soap manufacturer operating under the partnership of Hughes & Folger Co.

Merchant Tokens – Obverse Types A & B Described

There are three significant variations that distinguish the three obverse types.

At the top of each token is the address “17 OLD LEVEE”

In obverse type A, the top of the ‘7’ is taller than the top of the ‘1’
In obverse type B, the top of the ‘7’ is about even with the top of the ‘1’
In obverse type C, the top of the ‘7’ is about even with the top of the ‘1’ but spread further apart.

An eagle device is prominent on each of the three obverse varieties:

In obverse type A and type B, the wings of the eagle point upward.
In obverse type C, the wings of the eagle point downward.

At the top of the the major and minor motto:

In obverse type A, the third ‘E’ in LEVEE is located below and between ‘ER’ of FOLGER
In obverse type B, the third ‘E’ in LEVEE is fully located below the ‘R’ of FOLGER
In obverse type C, the third ‘E’ in LEVEE is located below and to the right of ‘R’ of FOLGER

NC Folger Obverse Types

Reverse Types 1, 2, & 3 Described

In reverse type 1, a leaf in the shape of an ‘S’ is situated adjacent to the ‘C’ in CLOTHING
In reverse type 1, a leaf in the shape of an ‘S’ is situated adjacent to the ‘S’ in CAPS

In reverse type 2, there are three rosettes situated at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock respectively.

Reverse type 3 is completely different than reverse types 1 and 2.  An eagle device is featured, and the motto “GENTLEMENS FURNISHINGS” is displayed.

The variety itself is a muling, as the reverse of this variety is the same as the reverse for Miller KY-32 – ‘Taylor and Raymond.’

NC Folger Reverse Types

The Merchant Token Varieties of N.C. Folger

Below is a table which outlines all of the N.C. Folger token varieties. (Note that this does not include the N.C. Folger & Son token varieties.)

N.C. Folger Token Varieties

Numismatic Specimens

Below are three specimens attributed using the above attribution guide.

In the first specimen’s obverse, the ‘7’ is clearly higher than the ‘1’ in 17 OLD LEVEE. Moreover, the third ‘E’ in LEVEE is underneath the ‘E’ and ‘R’ in FOLGER.  Thus it is an obverse type A.

In the first specimen’s reverse, there are three rosettes at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock. Thus it is a reverse type 2.  The specimen is struck in brass, and it possesses a reeded edge.

Therefore it is a Miller LA-14B.

Miller LA-14B N.C. Folger

In the second specimen’s obverse, the ‘7’ is about even with the ‘1’ in 17 OLD LEVEE.  Moreover, the third ‘E’ in LEVEE is underneath the ‘R’ in FOLGER. Thus it is an obverse type A.

In the second specimen’s reverse, there are three rosettes at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock. Thus it is a reverse type 2.  The specimen is struck in copper, and it possesses a reeded edge.

Therefore it is a Miller LA-15F.

Miller LA-15F N.C. Folger

The third specimen’s obverse is the type A variety, while it shares its reverse with Miller KY-32.  All specimens featuring KY-32 as their reverse are mulings.

Miller LA-18B N.C. Folger

In the fourth specimen’s obverse, the eagle features drooping wings. There is but only one NC Folger variety that possesses this feature. Thus it is a Miller LA-20

Miller LA-20 NC Folger

Aaron Packard [End Mark]

Notes and Sources

  1. Affleck’s Southern Rural Almanac and Plantation and Garden Calendar for 1854, Thomas Affleck, Washington Adams Co., 1853, pg.105
  2. DeBow’s Southern and Western Review, Volume 13, J.D.B DeBow, 1852, pg.108
  3. The Confederate Army 1861-65 (3): Louisiana & Texas, Ron Field, Osprey Publishing, ©2006, pg.17
  4. American Business Tokens, Benjamin P. Wright, Quarterman Publications, ©1972 (Reprint), pgs.332-333
  5. United States Store Cards, Edgar H. Adams, 1920, pg.8
  6. The Numismatist Vol.28, May 1915, pgs.161-163
  7. A Catalogue of U.S. Store Cards or Merchant Tokens, Donald M. Miller, Henry Hall Inc., ©1962, psgs.14-15
  8. Standard Catalog of United States Tokens 1700-1900 Fourth Edition, Russell Rulau, Krause Publications, ©2004, pgs.137, 289-291
  9. The American Numismatic Society, Record Number 1837.0000.999.30577
  10. The Library of Congress Digital Archives

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The author has over 30 years experience in North American numismatics. He is the author of numerous articles about exonumia, including those about tokens, scrip, and the public who used them. He is a member of the ANA, VNA, ACC, C4, CWTS, TAMS, MD-TAMS, AVA, NSCA, and NumisSociety.
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