Summary

Aternative Name: Token
Issued: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Medal, Cole's Book Arcade, Federation of the World, Be Good and Do Good, circa 1885. This nickel-plated 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).

Physical Description

A nickle plated bronze medal (31 mm diameter) featuring a tree fern and a thought provoking maxim.

Obverse Description

Tree fern in centre; to left of fern, BE / GOOD / AND to right, DO / GOOD / HINDOO MAXIM

Reverse Description

Above rainbow, PURE / THOUGHTS / PURE WORDS / PURE DEEDS / PARSEE MAXIM below rainbow in tiny letters; FEDERATION OF THE / WORLD MEDALS / ISSUED / BY E.W. COLE / BOOK ARCADE MELBOURNE

Edge Description

Plain

Significance

Cole's Book Arcade opened in the Bourke Street Mall in 1883, after earlier operating from other sites. It was a shop like no other, crammed with new and second-hand books and other wares, but with the atmosphere of a circus. Cole enticed customers of all ages with a menagerie and fernery, a band, a clockwork symphonion and other mechanical delights. Readers could sit in comfortable chairs, encouraged by a sign: 'Read for as Long as You Like - Nobody Asked to Buy'. The Arcade's proprietor, Edward William Cole, was optimist and idealist, believing passionately in the power of education and envisaged a world without borders, expounding his views in pamphlets and books. Cole died in 1918, still dreaming of a better future. Cole's Book Arcade, one of the wonders of 'marvellous Melbourne', closed in 1929.

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