Aternative Name: Token
Issued: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Medal, Cole's Book Arcade, Federation of the World, Wednesday the Workers Own, 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).
An gilt bronze medal (31 mm diameter) featuring a tree fern and a thought provoking maxim.
Tree fern in centre; around across top, WEDNESDAY THE WORKERS OWN to left of fern, ECONOMISE YOUR TIME BY WORKING 48 HOURS IN 5 DAYS AND to right, SO GAIN WITHOUT LOSS THE GREAT BOON OF A WHOLE RECREATION DAY around below, SOMETHING FOR NOTHING
Above rainbow, RATIONAL ECONOMY WORK WHILE YOU WORK PLAY WHILE YOU PLAY AND FAIRLY EARN AND FAIRLY TAKE A RECREATION DAY; below rainbow in tiny letters; FEDERATION OF THE / WORLD MEDALS / ISSUED / BY E.W. COLE / BOOK ARCADE MELBOURNE
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.
Transfer from National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), George McArthur, 15/3/1976
circa 1885 AD
Obverse: WEDNESDAY THE WORKERS OWN ECONOMISE YOUR TIME BY WORKING 48 HOURS IN 5 DAYS AND SO GAIN WITHOUT LOSS THE GREAT BOON OF A WHOLE RECREATION DAY SOMETHING FOR NOTHING Reverse: RATIONAL ECONOMY WORK WHILE YOU WORK PLAY WHILE YOU PLAY AND FAIRLY EARN AND FAIRLY TAKE A RECREATION DAY FEDERATION OF THE WORLD MEDALS ISSUED BY E.W. COLE BOOK ARCADE MELBOURNE
Type of item
12.91 g (Weight)
Chitty 47; Dean 62
[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.
[Catalogue] Morrison, Ian. 2003. The Baker of Maldon.
[Thesis] Lugton, Mary E. 1989. George McArthur of Maldon: his Life and his Book Collection.