Be Description


The beehive was a symbol of industry dating back to medieval times. The phrase “busy as a bee” is thought to originate with Chaucer’s Squire’s Tale in the Canterbury tales written in the late fourteenth century. The beehives pictured on the tokens were called skeps and were made of coiled woven grass or straw. A beehive store was one that was well patronized, presumably due to the quality, extensiveness and value of its wares. The merchants who used these designs were mostly dealers in dry goods, groceries and provisions. There was also a wall and window paper dealer (IN290E), a hardware dealer (IN430B), and a cough syrup advertiser (OH995B) all of whom used die 1350. Both Horter’s (188) and Lanphear’s (1350 & 1351) dies included the word “Industry.” Interestingly, Torrey’s card ME 100A “Inventor of the Maine State Beehive” did not use a skep design, even though one of his cards was made by Childs, who made the Jas. Lewis & Co beehive obverse die (IN530C). Nor was a beehive design used by E. Towney’s Hives & Bees (OH165GB) who opted for Stanton’s Indian Heads.


Die Table

How the different engravers represented bees indicates their general attention to detail, the level of quality found in their other engravings, and even the overall quality level of their tokens.  The photos below are each 3.5mm high and wide. Marr’s bees are the smallest and actually resemble bees. They appear to be individually engraved. Lanphear’s bees appear to all be from a single die punch and are vaguely reminiscent of the Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star Korean-era fighter jet with its wing-end fuel tanks. Horter’s bees seem more like birds or flying fleur-de-lys. While Lanphear put bees on Tyler’s custom storecard in 1863, when he reused the hub to make the 1350 stock beehive die the following year, the bees were apparently too much trouble to include. Childs didn’t bother to add bees to his version either (IN530C).

Type Set Definition Notes

Availability and Pricing

This type set is not too difficult to complete, although obtaining high grade specimens can be much more challenging.

188/384a appears to be a business strike widely available in circulated grades, whereas 188/435 appears to be a collector strike as it is uniformly scarce regardless of metal and the 188 die has rusted. (a) refers to copper, (b) brass, (j) nickel etc. as in SC75 & Pat05.

Type Set Expansion and Related Tokens

Beehives appear as a symbol of Industry on a wide range of token series both before and after the Civil War, a few examples are show below:

English Half-Penny Token D&H Nottingham-6 from 1792

Non-local token, possibly Mormon. Rulau Y4.

Rulau PA-Ph PA 382 from Pre-Civil War period

Marr - WI510I

Lanphear - 1351

Horter - 188

The beehive as a symbol of Industry is not too far distant from Cm - Commerce, Mf - Manufacturing and Mr - Mercury (the Roman God of trade). For collectors of a non-pictorial bent, Kanz01 provides lists of merchant cards by topics including 253 CWT merchants who carried Dry Goods and Millineries, 404 who carried Groceries, Provisions, Notions and Crockeries as well as fifty-six other die theme categories.

Early 20th Century Trade Token