World Coins and Tokens from the Collection formed by Allan Vayle

World Coins and Tokens from the Collection formed by Allan Vayle

Allan Vayle

Ever since I visited a boyhood friend in August 1960, whose kitchen table was littered with Lincoln head pennies, I have had an interest in numismatics. It was one thing to collect U.S. coinage and fill the Whitman folders, it was quite another to study the esoteric tokens that have been issued since Roman times.

Tokens was the path to learning about substitute monies used as work checks or tallies on plantations, in mines, on ships, in cafes and stores, as substitute money on military bases, as necessity pieces during wars, as advertising checks, as transportation items. It was like a sideline in the history of various locales and countries; a fitting use of the historical knowledge one studied at university. By extension of seeking references to these pieces of metal, vulcanite, cardboard, glass or leather, one gained even more knowledge and could make favourable purchases.

In 1960, I was working in Boston for the Jordan Marsh company, a major department store. As luck would have it, there was a coin dealer who rented space in the store. He taught this novice a lot about U.S. and world coins. Later on, I would spend my lunch hour soliciting bargains in the several coin shops that were located in downtown Boston. It became a source of pride that I was able to buy coins and tokens that were priced so that I could acquire them. The fun was doing the research and feeling good when the catalogues indicated a good buy. I dealt with Maurice Gould, Joe Powers, the Stones, Ralph Goldstone, Court Coin, and many others. The nagging thought was that there was no catalogues for pricing or identifying world tokens, so someone needed to do the research. At the same time, one learned which pieces were common and which were not; information that led to successful purchases. Of course, I saved the research.

The Boston area in 1960s and 1970s was a wonderful place to be a coin collector. There were many experienced and long time coin dealers who were a major source of education; it was like doing post-graduate work in history. There also was the Collector's Club of Boston and the Boston Numismatic Society, whose members shared with this novice. There were coin shows all the time, even the American Numismatic Association sponsored a national show in Boston and had an exemplary auction of the John Quincy Adams collection of world coins from the Massachusetts Historical Society. I was always learning something new about this little-known hobby sideline.

Later, working as an independent contractor representing manufacturers in the gift and souvenir industry, I was able to travel throughout New England from my home base in Boston. Now I had the opportunity to stop at obscure coin shops, antique shops and the like, which allowed me to make some very favourable purchases of tokens from dealers who did not do the research and put such pieces in their bargain boxes. Sometimes they saved pieces for me on my next trip through. Dealers like Emery Stratton in Mass., Ron Erle in Cheshire, CT, Dunlop in NH, Gillette in Greenfield, MA, and others in Maine and Vermont all had something to offer. Most said there was little interest in what I was collecting, so I concluded that someone needed to catalogue these obscure tokens. Emery Stratton was an unusual person. As a coin dealer he was very fair and supportive, collectors kept coming back. I never knew his source of material. He had been a well-known golfer in the Boston area and had played with many famous golfers. When he was 75 he shot his age on the golf course. It was in the Boston newspapers and I was impressed. Emery didn't brag about it, others did it for him.

Even my family contributed to my collection. My grandfather, Nathan, gave me an 1887 U.S. 10 cents, as it represented the year of his birth in Vilna, Lithuania. My aunt Minnie gave me several U.S. 10 cent pieces dated 1942 to 1945 in brilliant uncirculated condition. It's like they were waiting for me to ask. How do you say thanks?

Still focusing on tokens and obscure items like siege coins, I gradually expanded to collect modern Greece, including many Greek tokens, most of which originated from a wonderful fellow from Athens, Theo Pitidis. Theo was a student at M.I.T. University and shared his knowledgeable about world coins. He always brought me something from his trips to Greece and London. The connection with Pitidis was a result of my visiting and dealing with Colony Coin Co, still in business in Newton, MA. The men that ran Colony, Neil Todd, Charley Wallace and Harvey Fenton, were longtime and knowledgeable collectors who opened a coin shop and still maintained their regular jobs. I guess it is something most collectors dream about doing. I learned a lot at Colony and from the collectors and dealers who patronized their shop. Then, after subscribing to Coin World and World Coins, I expanded to purchases through the mail, doing business with Scott Cordry, Freeman Craig, Tim Dunn, Frederic Wachter, Leon Hermes, Limarc (Soxman), Steve Album and many others. Tokens were appearing on many dealers' lists and they were guessing at the prices. I bought pieces at Coin Galleries in NY and I also dealt with international dealers such as Zaidman in Marseilles. I attended the first New York International show and was excited to be there. Then I discovered Paul Bosco and Jerry Schimmel. They were dedicated world token dealers in the U.S. Now the prices became realistic and collectors had to make decisions which ones to buy. One did not have a bottomless source of funds. These dealers had 'great stuff and as a collector I had to decide how much to spend on each piece that enticed me. But now the fun of the hunt began in earnest. I won some and didn't get some. It matters not, I had fun doing it and that is healthy.

In conclusion, a tribute to Russ Rulau is in order. He edited Latin American Tokens, a template for future catalogues. His tribute to David Henkle's manuscript can be summed up in a quote from the article "Lest someone conclude that the computer will replace research in numismatics, we hasten to add that only human persistence driven by devotion matters." Token people are like that and they have fun along the way. Enjoy the pieces in this collection.

Allan Vayle