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Special President's Article Coal Scrip as private currency
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Coal Scrip Definition

by Steve Cawood, past President

Coal scrip, and lumber scrip were produced as either tokens or paper which were issued by coal mining companies and logging or lumber companies in the years following the Civil War, until about 1960, throughout the United States, a sort of industrial currency issued to their employees as a form of credit, an advance against future earnings, and redeemable only at the employer's "company store", or commissary , for food, clothing, tools for work and virtually everything needed by the employees living and working in the isolated and remote locations where the employers were opening new work camps, or towns.

Scrip tokens were made of metal and metal alloys, hard rubber, wood, fiber, plastic and rubber, but generally metal in different sizes and shapes(round, square, octagonal,etc.)in denominations ranging from a penny to twenty dollars. In the early 1900s scrip manufacturers began marketing metal tokens with "cut-outs"(holes punched in the center of the token) in various shapes identifiable with the issuer, unique to that company, as a means of combating counterfeiting.

Paper scrip ranged in size from that of a commemorative postage stamp to that of a letter page, probably most being about 1"x3", in an assortment of colors, and in denominations ranging from a cent upward to several dollars.

Scrip came to be used in virtually all American industries, throughout the states, industries such as steel, manufacturing, farming, canning, and even brothels! Military bases(both domestically, and throughout the world)and naval vessels also issued scrip to enlisted men redeemable only at the base PX or bar.

The use of scrip in the coal and lumber industries came to an end in the late 1950s(with some rare exceptions)as highways made the coal and lumber camps more accesible , as automobiles became more affordable, as credit became more easily accessible to hourly wage earners, and as banks became more easily accessible to the employers dispensing large weekly payrolls.