In numismatics, token coins or trade tokens are coin-like objects used instead of coins. The field of token coins is part of exonumia and token coins are token money. Tokens have a denomination either shown or implied by size, color or shape. “Tokens” are often made of cheaper metals: copper, pewter, aluminum, brass and tin were commonly used, while bakelite, leather, porcelain, and other less durable materials are also known.
A key point of difference between a token coin and a legal tender coin is that the latter is issued by a governmental authority and is freely exchangeable for goods. However, a token coin typically has a much more limited use and is often issued by a private company, group, association or individual. In the case of “currency tokens” issued by a company but also recognized by the state there is a convergence between tokens and currency.
Streetcar number 1752 became the first subway car to be driven in regular traffic in the Boston subway system in 1897. This also marks the beginning of subway traffic in the United States.
Boston has the oldest subway tunnel in the United States that is still in use, part of the MBTA’s Green Line downtown, dating from 1897. The original construction was a short four-track tunnel, with only two stations downtown, originally built to take streetcars from outlying areas off the streets in the most congested area. From 1901 to 1908, heavy rail trains temporarily shared the tunnel as part of the original configuration of the Main Line Elevated, the first elevated railway in Boston. Later subway lines built in Boston carry heavy rail trains; the Green Line still operates with light rail equipment.
Transit tokens in the United States date to 1831, when brass coins were minted for John Gibbs’s U.S.M. stage in New Jersey. Horsecar tokens were issued more widely in the 1830s, as were tokens for horse-drawn omnibuses. By 1897, the U.S. had its first subway in Boston, and in 1904 the New York subway system was inaugurated. Tokens were also produced for ferries, buses, and streetcars, often out of cheap white metal, aluminum, or more costly bronze. One characteristic of many, but certainly not all, transit tokens is that they often feature cutouts, sometimes in the shapes of letters, to differentiate them at a glance from other coins.