Tokens are fun to collect. Many families have tucked away bus tokens or WWII tokens that are worth pennies. This local, historical Maas Brothers treasure just surfaced. “Treasure” does not always mean wealth, and indeed, the historical value of this week’s find exceeds its monetary value.
While there have been recorded single-token sales of $12,000 and more for 1870s Arizona territories one-cent tokens (pre-statehood), most “trade tokens” bring $1 to $10 each.
This week, while sorting through a long-forgotten bag of non-precious exonumia (numismatic items – such as tokens, medals, or scrip – other than coins and paper money), we found the pictured curiosity. We could not find anything that matched the address, but with the help of some friends in an exonumia club, traced it to a local company here in Tampa! According to several Jewish history sites (including “The Princes of 7th Avenue” and “The Jews of Tampa,” both terrific sources), Mr. Schein (later Shine, married into the Maas family, often referred to as the “Maas-Shine” family), after arriving from Austria in 1896, set up a dry goods store that sold just about everything. Mostly clothing, but also jewelry, and even a pawn business was involved. This 7th Avenue address is still in a vibrant area, but not close to what it was at the turn of the 20th century. These European Jewish merchants spoke several languages, but heavily utlized “Ladino” – a combination of Hebrew and Spanish.
On this token, the obverse is in English and the reverse is in Spanish. Even though we could not find another one like it (nor could any of our colleagues), we expect it to bring less than $150. It is made of aluminum, about the size of a fifty-cent piece, and we are guessing from around 1910.
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