As early as the middle of the 16th Century, less than 100 years after Columbus’ journey to the new world, tobacco was readily farmed and consumed by Europeans who voyaged and settled in the Americas. A plant long cultivated by Native Americans, Europeans quickly adopted an affinity for its consumption, and a knack for growing it. Indeed, the plant was so much appreciated by the settlers, that it quickly became cultivated in all of the 13 original colonies.
After having entrenched itself as a successful crop in all of the American colonies, the plant quickly migrated to other parts of the world. By the mid 19th century, tobacco plantations had spread to Japan, China, Australia, the Caribbean, Central Asia, Russia, and Northern Europe.
Limited only to the creativity of merchandisers, tobacco brands had names like Mountain Dew, Amazons, Velocipede, and Yosemite. The only thing more exotic than the brand names was the artwork employed on the various labels. Native American-related branding was a frequent and popular theme as well.
As numerous as there were brands and varieties of tobacco, so too were there numerous mercantiles. Every major city had dozens or more tobacco shops. Highly lucrative, not only did these shops stock the dozens of tobaccos available, but they also stocked the implements and paraphernalia used to consume the dried plant.
Civil war tokens, a medium of exchange that not only ensured the continuation of commerce during a difficult period for the nation, also provide modern-day numismatists with a historical snapshot of American businesses at the time. Included among the thousands of varieties of tokens known, examples of tobacco storecards also survive.
Pictured below is a Hanna & Co Civil War token. Listed as MI225AJ-1a, the token is an R-8 (5-10 specimens known.) When customers made purchases at the store, the tobacconist would issue change using these storecard tokens.
Hanna & Co operated in the Detroit Michigan era for at least 20 years, as evidenced by the token, as well as surviving merchant directories from the 1870s and 1880s.
Below please find two Hanna & Co Civil War Storecards.
The first specimen was struck in copper, with a grade of about Choice Very Fine. Listed as Fuld MI225AJ-1a, it has a rarity rating of R-8.
The second specimen was also struck in copper. NGC slabbed with a grade as MS-64 RB, it is listed as Fuld MI225AJ-3a with a rarity rating of R-7.
Notes and Sources
Standard Catalog of United States Tokens 1700-1900 Fourth Edition, Russell Rulau, Krause Publications, ©2004
Tobacco: Its History, Varieties, Culture, Manufacture and Commerce, E.R. Billings, American Publishing Company, 1875
U.S. Civil War Store Cards Second Edition, George & Melvin Fuld, Quarterman Publications, ©1975
The Civil War Token Collectors Guide, Bryan Kanzinger, Valley Forge Coins-Books, ©2001
A Guide Book of United States Tokens and Medals, Katherine Jaeger, Whitman, ©2008
The Library of Congress Digital Archives