Delmarva Merchant's Tokens- A Collector's Perspective

This is a rare antique token I found in the dirt near my home.

Hallie's Token Find

Photo of my found token

This find opened my eyes to a whole world of collectible tokens and coins that I had, as of that point, not showed much interest in.

With so many "things" on this planet to collect and research in depth, it is impossible to cover them all in a lifetime, as interesting as they may be.

But every so often, you come across an item that you just have to know more about. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, you're a full blown collector, or enthusiasts at the very least.

This was the case with Douglas Wight, owner of the Chanceford Hall Bed and Breakfast, in the historic town of Snow Hill, Maryland, who also happens to be a collector of Worcester County "merchant's tokens". 

Doug had responded to a few questions I had asked in a group discussion, and mentioned that he had been collecting merchant's tokens for a few years. 

His suggestion that my "found token" could be categorized as a merchant's token, led me to dig a bit deeper into discovering what exactly a merchant's token even was. (Confession, I had never heard of them before...) 

Doug was kind enough to share his collection with me, and answer some questions I had regarding these very interesting pieces of history.

Delmarva Merchant's Token

Q&A with Doug on His Collection

Q: How would you describe a merchant's token? What are they? 

A: Merchant tokens were widely used on the eastern shore of Maryland (after the Civil War) by the canning industry, to pay laborers that picked or packed fruit, vegetables, oysters, crab, etc. They were sometimes crudely made of copper, brass, fiber, or aluminum planchet, and were simply stamped with the canner’s initials, and a denomination such as 1 Bkt (bucket), or 1 Bas (basket). These tokens were given out as a “unit of work”, redeemable on payday, and it eliminated the need to keep payroll records. Sometimes they had holes punched in them for easy keeping.

Q: How did you find your first token (or how did it find you?) and when? 

A: On our annual visit to Snow Hill in August of 2013, we discovered Chanceford Hall; neglected, abandoned, & for sale. I returned home & began to research “everything Chanceford & Snow Hill”. In the process, I discovered some local Worcester County merchant tokens on eBay, & it stirred an interest.

Q: What about them intrigues you? Why are they special to you? 

A: I guess because they are historical artifacts of the eastern shore, Snow Hill, & Worcester County, & they are still available to collect.

Q: Where do you have the best luck finding more to add to your collection?

A: I have bought all of mine on eBay.

Q: Do you have a special way you like to display them?

A: I have them on display in a long wooden box, in our guest living room at Chanceford.

Q: Will you continue to collect them?

A: I began my collection then, and have not bought any since! (update: more were purchased on eBay and added to his collection after our discussion!) 😊

Q: Tell us about one that is particularly special to you, and why?

A: I have a brass, octagonal, 1 BKT token from the WESLEY CANNING CO. This cannery started operating during the early 1940’s in Snow Hill. There was also a factory at Girdletree.

Q: Do you recommend any resources that we can research to find out more about merchant's tokens? 

A: I also found a book on eBay titled Maryland Merchant Tokens by David E. Schenkman 1986.

A Closer Look

Shown here, are photographs of Doug's merchant token collection. 

As you can see, they tend to take on a variety of different forms.

Merchant's token's were often round, square, or octagonal, and made of different materials as Doug mentioned above. 

merchants token collection

Photo courtesy of Douglas Wight 

In the picture below, you can see the very token Doug mentioned in our discussion that is of particular interest to him.

The front, is scribed "Wesley Canning Co." which represents a local Worcester County cannery from the 1940's. 

 Merchant Token Collection

 Photo courtesy of Douglas Wight

Going Once, Going Twice, SOLD!!!

Doug's collection has been sourced mainly from sales on eBay. Check out these other local (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) merchant's tokens being sold on eBay. 

Vintage Cannery Token Delmar Packing Co, Delmar, Delaware.

Delmar Packing Co. Token

More information...

Set of 2 Charles T. Wrightson Cannery Tokens Easton, Maryland

Set of 2 Charles T. Wrightson Cannery Tokens Easton, Maryland

More information...

Vintage Cannery Token B. E. Harrington & Son, Taylor's Island, Maryland

Vintage Cannery Token B. E. Harrington & Son, Taylor's Island, Maryland

More information...

WESTOVER MD MARYLAND ~ LONG BROS. GF " 1 " TOKEN ~ CANNERY 1914 - 1982 PRODUCE

WESTOVER MD MARYLAND ~ LONG BROS. GF " 1 " TOKEN ~ CANNERY 1914 - 1982 PRODUCE

More information...

Vintage Phillips Packing Co Factory "F" Cannery Token, Cambridge, Maryland.

Vintage Phillips Packing Co Factory "F" Cannery Token, Cambridge, Maryland.

More information...

Research and Value Merchant's Tokens 

For more information about merchant's tokens, and how to identify them, please visit the marks and patterns library at WorthPoint.com. Here you will find 100,000+ identifiers and online books to help you identify the origin of your tokens. 

Additionally, if you are looking to value your collection, you may sign up to receive a FREE 7-day Trial of the Worthopedia Price Guide, valued at $19.99/month, where you will gain access to over 300 million realized prices, details, and images from hundreds of different online marketplaces, to compare, price, and value your own collection for resale or personal use.

Click here to learn more about your 7-Day FREE Trial!

Thank You for Reading!

We'd like to thank our friend Doug Wight for taking the time to share his collection with us, and thank our readers visiting as well!

Please leave us your comments about the article down below!

I would love to hear your thoughts or experiences with collecting tokens.

As always, Peace, love, and happy collecting! - Hallie  ❤️️ 

Please note, we, Maverick's Attic Vintage Co. are not the sellers of any of the eBay listings in this article. We have simply curated some of our favorite items, to share with our readers for entertainment purposes. Although we only feature listings with high positive seller ratings, we still suggest practicing your own due diligence before conducting any transactions or finalizing a purchase on eBay. 

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2 comments

Hallie

That’s correct Barbara! We had lots of tomato canneries here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia. These tokens are a special piece of history for sure!

Barbara

The tokens were used in tomato canneries. Each peeler was assigned buckets with numbers on them. When the bucket was full, the peeler received one token. At the end of the week the tokens were redeemed for cash.

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