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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tax Tokens

A couple weekends back Jason and I took his mom to our local antique mall, which is a really cool place that we don't frequent very often for some reason. One of the sellers had bargain bags, which are exactly the type of things I need to stay away from; bags of old things that may or may not have a value, often not. But being the type who is attracted to the word bargain, and odds and ends, I had to spend the bulk of my time there sifting through the matchbooks, buttons, military badges and what not until I found something.
What I found was tax tokens, little coins made of paper, metal and plastic with odd things written on them like "For Old Age Assistance."
The sales clerk had no idea what they were either, but they were $3 for a bag of about 50 so I bought them.
Apparently these came into being in the 1930s and were used in some places up until the 1960s as a result of states starting to charges a sales tax. They were used as change when the sales tax was less than a penny. As it happened, a 10 cent item with 5% tax would be 10.5 cents. A store owner would either have to eat the half cent and pay the tax, or overcharge the customer, which, considering sales tax began in the depression for most states, was not something the average customer stood for. So the tax token solved the problem. The customer would pay 11 cents and receive a half penny's worth of change in the form of tax tokens. Then, the customer could use the tax token next time they made a purchase for 10 cents.
Most of the tokens I have are from Oklahoma, which used both paper (during the depression) and two types of metal, brass and aluminum. Missouri has red and green plastic tokens that look a bit like poker chips.
Apparently there are some rare tokens out there, but alas, nothing in my bargain bags are rare, though I also scored both a Dallas and Beaumont City Lines bus token. Both date to the 50s.
So what am I going to do with these?
Make jewelry, of course.
Have I ever made jewelry before?
Of course not.
I'll let you know how that goes. In the mean time, if anyone can come up with another interesting use for these let me know, they're just too neat to have sitting around doing nothing.

In the same bargain bin I also found a bag of postal service pins that had three that said "follow the tiger" so I had to buy them for Jason, obviously, because his band is Raised By Tigers (and he simply won't change the name to Raised By Not.A.Lions). I also bought a book about making cheese at home from 1976 for fifty cents, how cool is that?


  1. Mmm. Bellydancing costume?
    Tablecloth weights?

  2. My thoughts went to jewelry or maybe a Tribal belly dance costume, like GvH suggested.

  3. And to think that now they want to get rid of the penny!