Aternative Name: Token
Issued: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Medal, Cole's Book Arcade, Ornament Exhibition, circa 1885. This gilt medal is one of a series of medals offering maxims and proverbs issued by E.W. Cole at his Book Arcade. He called the medals 'little missionaries for the spread of educative knowledge' (Dean, 1988, p.36).
According to Sydney Endacott, an employee of Cole, customers were charged three pence for these medals (which he prefers to call tokens) which, when the Arcade was particularly busy, gave them admission to the second-hand books gallery where the orchestra played. Each medal could be exchanged for thee pence worth of goods, but most were kept. The pierced ones were sometimes worn as pendants or on pocket watch chains. The medals served as perpetual advertisements of the Arcade (Victorian Historical Magazine, February 1962). George Dean suggests that the medals were also given in change at Christmas time, and could be used to operate amusement machines (presumably including the symphonion and hens, although these only required one penny to operate).
Cole had his first medal stuck in 1879 and his last one about 1903. The medals were variously gilded, silvered or bronzed, replicating the coinage then circulating, or plated with nickel or white metal. The medal blanks were usually made of copper or brass, but some might have been bronze; aluminium was also sometimes used. In all, perhaps 300,000 medals were struck, in 97 types. Only 50 types are known to have circulated (George Dean, 1988, A Handbook on E.W. Cole: His Book Arcade, Tokens and Medals).
A gilt bronze medal (31 mm diameter) featuring a tree fern and a sales promotion.
A Tree Fern, on left, COLE'S / BOOK ARCADE / FIRST OPENED / IN THE / WORLD / 1875 on right, A MILLION / BOOKS TO / CHOOSE FROM / GET ALMOST / ANY BOOK / THERE
At centre, COLE'S / ORNAMENT / EXHIBITION / BOOK ARCADE / MELBOURNE / OPENED 1885 around, * BEAUTIFY YOUR HOMES * PRETTIEST SITE IN AUSTRALIA
Bequest from L. H. Walters - Museum Victoria
Obverse: COLE'S BOOK ARCADE FIRST OPENED IN THE WORLD 1875 A MILLION BOOKS TO CHOOSE FROM GET ALMOST ANY BOOK THERE Reverse: BEAUTIFY YOUR HOMES COLE'S ORNAMENT EXHIBITION BOOK ARCADE MELBOURNE OPENED 1885 PRETTIEST SITE IN AUSTRALIA
Type of item
8.52 g (Weight)
Chitty 13; Dean 19
[Book] Dean, George D. 1988. A Handbook on E.W. Cole, His Book Arcade, Tokens & Medals.
[Book] Turnley, Cole. 1974. Cole of the Book Arcade: a Biography of E.W. Cole.
[Article] 1973. A Tribute to E.W. Cole. Australian Numismatist. 27 (10): 5-10.