Charge coins were first issued in 1890, with some stores continuing to use them as late as 1959. Coins were issued in various shapes and sizes. Some, from clothing stores, came in shapes such as shirts, socks, or hats.
What were charge coins made of?
Charge coins were made of different materials, such as copper, brass, German silver, steel, fiber, and celluloid. All coins have the store’s name or monogram along with a number for identification.
Coin ownership and identification
No charge coins ever had the name of the individual to whom the coin was issued. When making a purchase, the salesperson would check a master list to compare the number of the coin and the name of the person presenting the coin to see if they matched.
If they didn’t, the coin would be confiscated until the rightful owner could be located. Most coins had holes so they could be put on a keychain. Ladies often wore their coins on necklaces to keep them from being mislaid.
Metal charge plates
In the 1930s, stores began using metal charge plates. These plates look like military dog tags. The front of the plate, in raised letters, contained the person’s name, address and account number. The back had a cardboard mount where the cardholder could sign his name. Metal plates were generally discontinued in the 1950s.
The first paper credit cards
Paper credit cards were used in the early 1900s, but it wasn’t until the 1940s that they began to be more common. By the early 1950s, they were being used by many companies.
Because paper was easily worn and damaged through everyday use, a clear plastic laminate was eventually added. By the late 1950s, companies began using the plastic credit card we know today.
Copyright 1989, Greg Tunks