In the late 1800's, and early to mid 1900's, coal miners were routinely paid in scrip, (company money) not cash. In southern Appalachia there's no evidence that miners were forced to draw their pay in scrip. On payday a miner could draw cash or scrip, or both; the choice was theirs.
Scrip, bingles, chits, "good fors", seco, script, trade tokens, whatever you want to call them, have become worthy vintage collectibles, a new exuberant extension of numismatics. A collection of tokens is called "exonumia", which may include trade tokens from several types of business including coal, lumber, sugar, farming, general store merchandise, transit and many others.
Scrip was often used as a credit system; miners would accept scrip to borrow against their paycheck (payday loans) for the purchase of daily supplies or necessities from the company store, which was owned by the mining company.
Click the 5 cent Bon Jellico coal scrip below to read the story of the Bon Jellico coal camp in Whitley county, west of Williamsburg, Kentucky.
Five Cents * Bon Jellico, Ky. * Company Store Scrip
A few old lines from the popular 1950's hit, Sixteen Tons, sums up the feelings of the underpaid and indebted coal-miner:
You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store
Tennessee Ernie Ford
Coal companies provided jobs and a unique way of life for miners and their families. Most coal mining operations were located far from established towns and cities. Coal companies built camps or towns and provided low cost homes, bathhouses, company store, churches, schools, local Post Office and often recreation facilities for the miners and their families. In essence, the company store (commissary) was a community center, where neighbors and friends came together without the formal organization of church, lodge or school.
Most coal companies owned their own stores, stocked basic commodities such as beans, candy, canned goods, corn, flour, fruit, ice cream, meat, sugar, tobacco, clothing, hardware, even furniture and appliances.
Some of the earliest known coal store tokens date back into the early 1880's. Coal-miners could get a credit advance against their wages, in scrip, to pay for daily necessities at the company store.
This monetary, credit system called Scrips, was used widespread in the coalfields of Appalachia. Many coal-miners and their families lived in company owned "coal camps" or mining towns. In these company towns or "coal camps," the only general store in town was usually owned or run by the company.
Proctor Coal * Whitley County, Redash, Kentucky
Coal companies had their own company symbols (logos) or counter strikes, (punches) on their scrip, which could only be spent at the company store. Coal scrip was usually issued in the same values or denominations as U.S. government currency or coins: 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, 50 cents, 1 dollar, 5 dollar and 10 dollar varieties. Some three-cent pieces do exist.
During the early to mid 1950's, revisions in federal and state laws, along with changing economic times, put an end to this monetary credit system and issuance of a company currency known as scrip.
Many Kentucky mining camps were located in Bell, Harlan, Laurel, Knox, McCreary and Whitley County, Ky. Coal camps include: Bon Jellico, Mountain Ash, Redash, Gatliff, Nevisdale, Packard, Wofford, near Williamsburg, Kentucky.
Among the 'coal scrip' offered by Tampa Token are a wide range of collectible, vintage coal scrip/tokens from coal mining states Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, and West Virginia.
Click to View the Coal Scrip/Token Catalog
Counter-stamp: A stamp or punch added to a paper, document or token as a qualifying mark.
One Cent * Block Coal & Coke Corp. Store Scrip
Campbell County, Block, Tennessee.
Definition of Scrip: A piece of paper.
Jellico Splint Williamsburg, Ky * Dixie Blue Gem