Aternative Name: Token
Issued: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Medal, Cole's Book Arcade, First Book Arcade Opened in the World, circa 1880. 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 thought provoking maxim.
A Tree Fern, on left, FIRST / BOOK ARCADE / OPENED / IN THE / WORLD on right, YOU CAN / GET ALMOST / ANY BOOK / YOU WANT / THERE
Below rainbow which rises from ferns, COLE'S BOOK ARCADE MELBOURNE / ALWAYS / DO THAT / WHICH YOU / BELIEVE TO BE / RIGHT
Transfer from National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), George McArthur, 15/3/1976
circa 1880 AD
Obverse: FIRST BOOK ARCADE IN THE WORLD YOU CAN GET ALMOST ANY BOOK YOU WANT THERE Reverse: COLE'S BOOK ARCADE MELBOURNE ALWAYS DO THAT WHICH YOU BELIEVE TO BE RIGHT
Type of item
11.26 g (Weight)
Chitty 10; Dean 14
[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.