TAMS Frequently Asked Questions
What is Numismatics?
Numismatics is the study of coins, tokens, medals, and paper money.
What is Exonumia?
Exonumia was defined by TAMS founding member, Russell Rulau in 1960. It refers to collectible items other than coins or paper money, as medals or tokens. Most collectors expand that definition to include a wide range of items defined below.
What is a token?
Strictly defined, a token is any substitute for the money issued by governments. The most common form of token is a metal disc, similar to a coin, on which is inscribed the value and the issuer. In theory, tokens were redeemable only by the issuer, but some were accepted widely and often circulated just as coins. In practice, many other items, such as advertising pieces, are also called tokens as opposed to medals.
Why were tokens issued?
Initially, tokens were made to compensate for shortages of coins in circulation. As specific needs arose, tokens were found to be effective even when there was no lack of circulating coins.
What types of tokens are there?
This list is not inclusive, but is presented as an illustration of the variety of tokens and related items that interest many collectors:

•  Advertising mirrors

•  Love tokens

•  Advertising tokens

•  Magician tokens

•  Advertising whetstones

•  Medals

•  Animal tags

•  Notgeld

•  Breton tokens

•  Parking tokens

•  Car Wash tokens

•  Patriotic Civil War tokens

•  Casino chips and tokens

•  Play money

•  Charge coins

•  Ration tokens

•  Checks

•  Relic medals

•  Civil War Storecards

•  Sales Tax tokens

•  Claim checks

•  School tokens

•  Communion tokens

•  Scrip

•  Conder tokens

•  So-Called dollars

•  Counterstamped coins

•  Spinners

•  Elongated coins

•  Sticker coins

•  Encased coins

•  Telephone tokens

•  Encased postage

•  Tool checks

•  Hard Times tokens

•  Trade mirrors

•  Hobo nickels

•  Trade tokens

•  Key tags

•  Transportation tokens

•  Letterheads

•  Wooden money

How are tokens collected?
Given the wide variety of tokens, collectors tend to specialize by type, geographical area, or other subdivisions. For instance, a collector of trade tokens may just collect those from one state, or by one particular type of issuing business (e.g. General Store, Saloon, or Billiard Hall). Some may have a collection of wooden nickels representing one from each state while others may try to collect every variety known from a single restaurant chain. The way tokens are collected is an individual choice - that contributes to the interest!
Where can tokens and medals be found?
People tend to save these objects rather than throwing them away, so estate sales, flea markets and the like are good sources. Nearly every coin dealer has an assortment of tokens and medals; at the least they have a "junk box" where treasures can be found. Metal detectorists are good sources for coins, tokens, and medals recovered from the ground.
What is a medal?
A medal is an object made to commemorate some person or event. Medals have been made by governments, organizations, or individuals.
What materials have been used to make tokens and medals?
Medals tend to be made of gold, silver, copper, or bronze. Tokens tend to be made of brass, zinc, aluminum, fiber, wood, or plastic.
What types of medals are there?
There is a wide variety of types of medals, and the following list is not all inclusive.

• Anniversary medals
• Athletic medals
• Commemorative medals
• Lifesaving medals
• Peace medals
• Prize medals
• Religious medals
• Scholastic medals
• Service medals
• War medals

How many tokens and medals were made?
Unlike the production figures for coins and paper money kept by government agencies, the records of makers of tokens and medals seldom are available to study. It is known, however, that gold medals were usually struck in only one piece. Trade tokens usually had a minimum order quantity of 100 and a request for 1000 pieces was considered a large order. Tax tokens were produced in the hundreds of thousands.
What are tokens and medals worth?
Unlike coins and paper money where there is a large and established market with published prices, values for tokens and medals are more subjective. The various specialized catalogs often give a range of values, but the laws of supply and demand govern prices for tokens and medals. In general, however, tokens and medals were made in fractions of the quantity of even the rarest of coins, but their market value is much less.
How can I contact other collectors?
Join a collector organization! The Token and Medal Society is one of the major groups, but there are many clubs catering to specific sectors of the token and medal hobby. For more information on tokens, medals, other clubs, and collecting in general, visit the American Numismatic Association.