Charge coins, what are they? How were they used, these pieces of metal of odd shapes and sizes. The use of the coins were varied. In your local haberdashery you could purchase a necktie to a pair of shoes. At the drug store it was used to purchase a bottle of cough syrup to a box of candy. Even a washing machine to a sofa could be bought from your favorite department store. As long as the coin was issued by these stores. Some stores did not issue these charge coins, but most did. Not everyone owned one of the “magical” coins that could purchase so many things.
To acquire a charge coin, you had to have the means of guaranteeing payment at a later date, usually the end of the month when the bills came due. You also had to have a responsible job or position. Never in those days did the stores solicit you as they do today with their colorful charge cards of plastic money. You had to apply to the store or stores that issued these charge coins. After filling out an application, and they ran a background and financial check on you, then you might qualify for your coin. These coins were usually holed so they could be put on a key chain for safety. Many of the women wore them on chains around their necks to keep them from being mislaid or lost.
Many of these coins had a monogram of the store stamped on them along with a number for identification. Some had the full name of the store on them. None ever had the full name of the person to whom it was issued. When making a purchase, the salesperson, without tendering the goods to the buyer would check a master list to check the name of the customer against the number on the coin. If they didn’t match or you didn’t give the correct name, you didn’t get the merchandise. So if a lost coin was found by someone, other than the person to whom it was issued, it did not do them any good. In a case like this the salesperson would keep the coin so it could be returned to the rightful owner. Aside from the different shapes and sizes of the coins, they were also of different metals, as copper, brass, German silver, steel and some were of fiber. All to me are very interesting and when finding a new one for my collection; I get very
excited to know there are many more to hunt for. I also have one of celluloid, that much used composition of long ago.
Every weekend, if the weather is nice, I head for any and all flea markets hoping to find a jackpot. I’m lucky if I find only one charge coin. In my collection I also have a few of the “mavericks” (unidentified coins) and they lie dormant in my binder until I or someone else can identify them. City Directories and Mercantile Catalogs are a great help. But the best help I’ve gotten is from people like you.
Copyright 1986 by Ed Dence