Norfolk Virginia in the Middle 19th Century

Norfolk Virginia in the Middle 19th Century

A bookseller and stationer in Norfolk Virginia, R. C. Barclay was in business during the middle part of the 19th century. As a means to advertise his business, Barclay had one-cent store card tokens struck. He would issue them to customers as change when they made purchases.

Listed as Schenkman 3680-Ga, Rulau Va-6, Miller VA-6, Wright VA-61, Rulau states that the tokens were struck by the Scovill Manufacturing Company, circa 1851-52. R. C. Barclay, the correct spelling for the actual business proprietor, had his name erroneously misspelled on the token.

Final Resting Place for R.C. Barclay, Elmwood Cemetery in Norfolk, VA

Final Resting Place for R.C. Barclay, Elmwood Cemetery in Norfolk, VA

According to Rulau, all of Barclay’s tokens were struck on copper-coated brass. Because of this, only high-grade specimens can be legitimately classified as copper, while those which appear as brass are actually low-grade examples of the same.Evidence of Barclay’s presence in Norfolk exists much earlier than the 1850’s. Included in The Waldie’s Select Circulating Library, Barclay’s business was listed as early as 1835.

A few years after Barclay had his tokens struck, he died of yellow fever. He was such a prominent citizen in the city, his death was memorialized in Norfolk’s Herald newspaper at the time, in 1855:

“It is with a heavy heart that we record the death of our esteemed and respected fellow-citizen, Mr. R. C. Barclay, who fell a martyr to the prevailing epidemic on Saturday night, after an illness of five days. In his death our community has lost a valuable member; his grief-stricken wife a most affectionate husband, to whom she was passionately attached, and his numerous circle of friends, an associate endeared to their hearts by the strongest ties of social attachment.”

Numismatic Specimen

Below is an R. C. Barclay token. The specimen is Choice Very Fine:

Va-6-RCBarclay-Combined

Aaron Packard [End Mark]

Notes and Sources

  1. Standard Catalog of United States Tokens 1700-1900 Fourth Edition, Russell Rulau, Krause Publications, ©2004
  2. Virginia Tokens, David Schenkman, The Virginia Numismatic Association, ©1980

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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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