This coin looks exactly like a penny, until you see the inscriptions: Harvey & Co. General Store, Fort Edward NY 1863. This is my photo of a real coin, laying here on my desk.

During the Civil War, the US Treasury stopped issuing coins, as all metals were needed for the war effort. This created a huge problem for local merchants as they didn't have anything to make change with, so some merchants used postage stamps and script, but those were not durable. For that reason, some of the more prosperous merchants issued these tokens. This particular coin was issued by one of our Fort Edward merchants, Harvey & Co General Store

The most famous example of this kind of token was created by New York City bar owner Gustavus Lindenmueller, who issued about a million of them, with his picture on one side and his name and a mug of beer on the other. Ya gotta love that! That's about 10,000 dollars worth, which would be about 30 year's wages for a working man of that time. People used them as trolley tokens and so the government got stuck with loads of them, which Lindenmueller refused to redeem ... and he got away with it, as they did not have a value stamped on them and they didn't claim to be money. They were known as "store cards" even though they were copper and resembled pennies.

Incidents like this led the Federal Government to pass laws prohibiting private coins in 1864.

Our Fort Edward merchant did the same thing, and he would have gotten away with it also. The coins were produced by various private mints and they cost the local merchants about 90 cents for a hundred ... and the merchant pocketed the difference each time he made change.

I was not able to find any info about Harvey's General Store other than this coin, but Harvey's coins regularly come up for sale on eBay for about 75 bucks. They are a neat little example of Fort Edward history from Civil War times.


Here's another example of the "coinage" used at that time in Fort Edward. This is a paper script worth 25 cents, issued in 1862 by the Bank of Fort Edward and signed by William Allen. Unlike the coin which has no denomination on it, this paper script is written as a "cashier's check" and could be exchanged for actual US currency. One caveat though, you had to have at least 20 of these (five dollars worth) to turn it in and nobody in those days was ever likely to have that much money ... so a lot of folks got stuck with these things a few years later when regular currency became available again.

The Bank of Fort Edward is long gone, and no trace remains, but this paper script (if in perfect condition) is now worth about 200 dollars to collectors.