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A Token From The Sugar Cane Train
Published on September 28, 2020
There have been many times in American history when the coins produced and available in parts of the United States have simply not been enough to accommodate the needs of trade and commerce. Rather than being forced to rely upon the barter system, ingenuity has led to the striking of tokens to fill in the gaps of commerce with a coin-like substitute.
There have been many times in American history when the coins produced and available in parts of the United States have simply not been enough to accommodate the needs of trade and commerce. Rather than being forced to rely upon the barter system, ingenuity has led to the striking of tokens to fill in the gaps of commerce with a coin-like substitute. Civil War Tokens, Encased Postage, and Hard Times Tokens are all great examples, as are the Hawaiian tokens produced in the 1870s and 1880s on the Hawaiian Islands.
Soon after Captain Cook arrived on the Hawaiian Islands and visited what was then the Kingdom of Hawaii, sugar cane became a major export. The sugar industry completely altered Hawaii's economy and made a select few very wealthy, while also producing challenging agricultural work for others. The influence of Americans on the Kingdom of Hawaii's government can also be traced back to US plantation owners and their interactions with King Kamehameha and his government.
It is against this backdrop that Hawaiian tokens were produced. Heritage Auctions will be offering an 1879 12 1/2 Cent Token from the Kahului & Wailuku Railroad in the upcoming October US Coin Auction #1320. These copper tokens were produced by railroad owner Captain Thomas H. Hobron to pay railroad workers and could be redeemed at his general store in Kahului, Maui. They also circulated more broadly on the islands. Hobron's railroad line carried sugar cane from regional mills to the port of Kahului for export (where modern-day Maui's airport is located today.)
These tokens are very popular with collectors today and are listed in the Redbook, or Guidebook to US Coins, that appears on virtually every collector's bookshelf. They are a part of both the monetary history of yesteryear and also Hawaiian history. Whether you enjoy visiting Hawaii, live there, or just are interested in studying financial history, these are great pieces! The example that Heritage is offering is graded AU53 by NGC and can be seen here:
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