Method

 
 

Many CWT designs are miniature works of art. Others are miniature billboards for political and patriotic sentiments. The die sinker was quite constrained by the small size of the token. Designs had to be bold and messages terse and poignant to both fit and be memorable. This CWT type collecting methodology focuses upon obtaining the best representative example of various CWT designs, which I refer to as “dies.” By “die” I mean the impression on a token of the steel die containing the design of interest.


The Storecard Catalog assigns die numbers 1000 through 1429 to dies paired with other dies that contain a merchant’s name or initials. Many of these numbered dies contain pictures of merchant wares. The Patriotic CWT Catalog assigns die numbers 1 through 537 to dies found on tokens which have neither a merchant’s name nor initials. Generally these dies have patriotic designs and/or sentiments.


Quite often the same die was used to make both Patriotic and Storecard tokens. For instance, 32 and 1095 refer to the same exact die, known as die 32 when it was used to make a Patriotic token, and as die 1095 when it was used to make a Storecard token. I don’t differentiate between whether a token has been traditionally known as a Patriotic or a Storecard token, my collecting methodology seeks to obtain the best example of the die.


Many of the distinctly numbered dies are very similar. For instance, twenty-seven dies numbered 1018 through 1044 are of an Indian head, dated 1863 with thirteen stars around. They have minor differences in the position of the stars relative to the headdress feathers and in the positioning of the date numerals relative to the headdress ribbon. While these differences may be keenly interesting to variety collectors, they are not the focus of this methodology. This entire group of twenty-seven dies is represented by a single type:  I 1.1 Stanton’s Indian Head, 1863.


The Storecard Catalog also has a many dies pictured in the body of the text which contain pictorial designs and/or patriotic slogans. These dies are cataloged as obverse dies and are not provided a die number by the Storecard Catalog since they often carry the merchant’s name or initials. This collecting methodology includes these dies in appropriate Type Sets. A nomenclature is employed to refer to these dies (See the Die Naming Nomenclature page for more details).


The Central Design is that part of the token which commands the viewer’s first attention. Typically it is what is the largest and appears in the center of the token, usually a sizable engraving of an object or motif (e.g. an Indian head, a shield, a liberty head, etc.). Other times it is text (e.g. Army and Navy, Not One Cent, etc.). Sometimes the entire die is used for the Central Design (e.g. “The Federal Union It Must and Shall Be Preserved”). Other times the Central Design is surrounded by a Rim Design which provides decorative or symbolic support for the central design, or may address a completely separate topic. Typical Rim Design elements include one or more of: a graphic element such as a wreath; a slogan; a merchant, die-sinker or person’s name; a date and/or stars.


A Major Type is a die that has a substantially different central design from other major types. By substantially different I mean: a) easily noticed by the naked eye when two major types are compared side by side, and/or, b) the same central design but produced by a different die sinker.

Minor Varieties of a major type have substantial differences in the rim design, for instance a different date, or stars instead of a date, or a merchant name instead of stars, etc. In nearly all cases, all of the minor variations of a major type were made by the same die-sinker.


A Type Set of major types focuses on a particular theme and forms the basic collectible unit for this methodology. For example, a type set of Benjamin Franklin on CWT consists of: 151-1149 (by die-sinker Emil Sigel), 152-1148 (by die-sinker Robert Lovett), NY 630K-5,6 or 7 obverse (by the Scovill Manufacturing Company), and 153-1150 (a medalet by William Key). These are listed from the most common type to the scarcest. A Type ID is assigned consisting of a one to three character code symbolizing the type set (e.g. BF in this case) and a numeral to name the different members of the type set organized by relative scarcity (i.e. BF 2 is scarcer than BF 1). Minor varieties are indicated in the Type ID by a decimal point and numeral. Again the higher the numeral, the scarcer the variety. As an example, in the Indian Head type set, the most common Indian Head design was produced by die-sinker John Stanton and is designated I 1. The minor varieties are:


    I 1.1 1863 date and stars around,

    I 1.2 1862 date and stars around,

    I 1.3 1864 date and stars around,

    I 1.4 no date with stars around,

    I 1.5 1863 date and “Prairie Flower” around,

    I 1.6 no date and “Prairie Flower” around.


Like the major types, minor varieties are ordered from most common to scarcest. A collector can decide to complete the Indian head type set by collecting all six major types I-1 through I-6 (i.e. one example each from I 1 Stanton, I 2 Sigel, I 3 Horter, I 4 Roloff, I 5 Scovill, and I 6 Marr), or may complete the more challenging type set by including all twenty-seven minor varieties (six by Stanton, nine by Sigel, four by Horter, five by Scovill, and one by Marr). In addition, there are two medalets by Key:  I M1.1 - Key's Indian Head, 18mm and I M1.2 - Key's Indian Head, 24mm. These appear to be medalets (see the Token or Medalet? page) which may not have been intended by the die-sinker to circulate as a cent.


This methodology emphasizes stylistic differences between die sinkers in organizing the over one thousand different Civil War Token dies. The first level organization is by Central Design in establishing the eighty-two type sets. The next level is by die sinker’s interpretation of the Central Design. Because different die sinkers nearly always had different visions and styles with respect to each Central Design, this organization feels natural. Indeed this trend has been common for some time with collectors seeking out “Indiana Primitives” for instance, which are the work of a single engraver, H.D. Higgins of Mishawaka, IN.


Some dies are signed and can be readily attributed to an engraver. Other times dies are ascribed to an engraver by the particular decorative punches or letter punches used. Sometimes a die is matched with the engraver’s / die-sinker’s own advertising card – good evidence that the advertised die sinking firm created the die, but certainly not conclusive. It may mean only that that reverse die was available for use in creating new tokens. Similarly a die’s intermuling with one or more dies for whom the engraver is known is often taken as evidence that engraver produced the die in question as well.


Ascription of dies to particular engravers can therefore be error-prone, but I believe the benefits of such an organization out-weigh the misattribution possibilities. The engraver/die-sinker ascriptions presented in PatV5 are taken as a starting point. To that this web site documents the evidence supporting that ascription and notes where ascriptions are weakly argued. Perhaps future findings will provide stronger evidence or reassignments?


By and large, this second level ordering provides substantial cohesiveness to the resulting second level groupings and follows ordering presented in Edgar Adams’ original photographic plates at the turn of the twentieth century which were employed by Hetrich and Guttag in their 1924 volume and subsequently the Fulds in PatV5 and its predecessors.