Summary

Aternative Name: Token

Medal, Cole's Book Arcade, First Book Arcade Opened in Melbourne, 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, 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 gilt bronze medal (31 mm diameter) featuring a tree fern and a thought provoking maxim.

Obverse Description

A Tree Fern, on left, FIRST / BOOK ARCADE / OPENED / IN THE / WORLD on right, YOU CAN / GET ALMOST / ANY BOOK / YOU WANT / THERE

Reverse Description

COLE'S TEXT FOR A BILLION SERMONS / A / KNOWLEDGE OF / TRUTH / IS BEST FOR / HUMAN WELFARE / THEREFORE / TO OBSERVE ENQUIRE READ / AND THINK IN ORDER TO / FIND TRUTH IS THE / HIGHEST DUTY / OF MAN

Edge Description

Plain

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