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While I'm interested in West Virginia Coal scrip, these thoughts seem to apply to any state and other token interests.

Most, if not all people in the United States have at one time or another used or been exposed to a product that had a coal connection in some way. Doesn't sound right !!!!!! but, read on. One of the earliest references found of coal as a fuel was the writing of the Greek scientist Theophrastus [371-2287 BC] a student of Plato and successor of Aristotle. Did you know that besides Coal as a fuel to keep us warm and power industries, that many, many ever day items use some type of Coal by-product to make Insecticides, Artificial Silk, Synthetic Rubber, Medicines, Perfume, Barking Powder, Sugar Substitutes, Plastic and many, many more items?

In this age of information all anyone has to do is type in "Coal Uses" in their computer. BAM !!!, more information than you can read. Just goes to show how important Coal was and still is to our well being. There are many books of the hardships of the Coal miners, and lots of very interesting history records of mine owners, disasters in and out of the mines, coal area railroads, coal miners families, company towns, stores and scrip.

The coal scrip collector is really not very different from the U. S. coin collector and perhaps they may be one in the same. But, let's compare. Both are hobbies, both have dealers that buy and sell and both have casual and serious collectors. The big difference is the number of collectors in each hobby. WOW !!!, that's a huge difference. However, Coal scrip collecting is UNIQUE, the Coal scrip hobby could not support a large collector base like U.S. coins. The total number of Coal tokens prevents that. However, seems like some scrip is very common and they are, some companies had thousands or tens of thousands made of a single denomination. At this time I know there are at least 7700 different tokens catalogued in the West Virginia third edition of "EDKINS CATALOGUE OF UNITED STATES COAL COMPANY STORE SCRIP". I have proof positive there are over 800 known but, unlisted West Virginia Coal scrip waiting to be listed in the next catalogue revision. But there are several thousand denominations of just West Virginia known coal scrip that are as hard to find as chicken teeth. Finding them is exciting especially when they may complete a set. At some point, and maybe within the next 50 years or so the collector may not be able to complete a set of any except the most common, simply because of the number of tokens lost each year by a number of reasons.

From the mid 1960's when Walter Caldwell and a few others brought Coal scrip collecting to the light and rare scrip sold for tens of dollars to today where the same scrip sells for hundreds of dollars, I foresee scrip selling even higher in the future. Why ?? Destruction, lost, misplaced or just taken out of the collecting area by families of past miners, collections donated to libraries and museums and others reasons that you may think of. Even now I have a want list of about 200 R1 through R5 West Virginia coal tokens I will pay $50.00 each for. We do know by records that are available, mintages of some scrip. We do not know the survivor scrip numbers when the companies quit using scrip. But, where you only had a hundred or so tokens to start with 80 to a 100 years or more ago, it's not hard to see how rare some scrip is. Coal scrip collecting is really the new kid on the collecting scene, very few people know or even care about coal scrip. So what, those of us that do, have a opportunity today to save a memory of a time when life was a struggle just to survive. If you collect coal scrip without backing up each town, store or mine with some written information about them then you're missing a blessing of history that we should not forget.

The U.S. coins could be spent anywhere, if you had any. When did coal companies in West Virginia first start using scrip? Maybe mid 1800's or so. Scrip collectors usually do not collect scrip for the monetary value that it will sell for, although I know that it will keep increasing in value as most items do, we collect because we can, it's fun, exciting, history, knowledge and a multitude of other reasons I'm sure. To me each time I see a token in my collection and I know information of the time, town, company and mine, I can visualize but not completely understand the work the miner had to do to earn the payday credit I'm looking at without being at his side. I fully know from information I've gleamed in the pictures, records and books I've seen and read, that the scrip was earned in conditions that were brutally hard. Again, coal scrip is UNIQUE, coal scrip has a face and personality that general U.S. coinage can never touch. Who can forget pictures of young slate pickers, the fire door kids or miners working a very low coal seam with maybe a candle or lantern for lighting, Other pictures that stand out are those of the rough sawn lumber shanties, family houses, privies and streets that were nothing to write home about or nothing period. As a matter of book interest of West Virginia coal, the following books are a few outside of direct scrip references that the collector might want to have: History of Coal Miners of the United States by Andrew Roy, History of the West Virginia Coal Industry by Phil Conley, The Logan Coal Field of West Virginia by Walter R. Thurmond, The Smokeless Coal Fields of West Virginia W. P. Tams Jr. and Billion Dollar Coalfield by Alex P. Schust.

Coal scrip was never produced with the intent of keeping or collecting only spending it as quick as possible for the items needed to exist. I am not a dealer, but I would say I'm a serious collector who collects the entire state of West Virginia and has spent many, many enjoyable hours in books, records and scrip.

Collectors can take heart to know, and I was told this by a old time collector "within 3 to 5 years after a serious collector dies his or her scrip will be sold", so maybe I'm wrong after all.

National Scrip Collectors Association
Billy W. Campbell
Printed in March 20, 2011 Scrip Talk