Scheduled to cross the auction block as part of our New York Americana Sale, January 22-24, 2013, is the finest and most extensive collection of Civil War sutler tokens in private hands, The Raymond Bunt Collection.
While cent-sized Civil War tokens are widely known and collected, those issued by sutlers are more specialized, not widely known, and as a class are many times rarer. These pieces typically range from cent-sized to nickel-sized, are denominated in such values as five cents, ten cents, twenty-five cents, fifty cents, or even one dollar. Many of the coiners who are well known for making Civil War tokens also produced tokens for sutlers, including S.B. Childs in Chicago, Ill., the shops of W.K. Lanphear and John Stanton in Cincinnati, Ohio, Joseph Merriam in Boston, Mass., and Francis X. Koehler in Baltimore, Md., to mention just a few. Most are struck in brass.
The federal government granted licenses to selected merchants to become sutlers, or traveling storekeepers, who followed Union troops across the countryside and into battle. Most were set up in tents that could be easily moved, but sometimes when a regiment stayed in a town, a sutler would locate in an unoccupied store. Offered for sale were many items for enjoyment, comfort and convenience. These included books and magazines, cards, games, stamps and stationery, personal supplies and utensils, clothing, sweets, and even potent alcohol. The last was a secret that really wasn’t a secret at all — alcohol-laced liquid sold as medicine in the form of bitters.
Unlike Civil War tokens that were widely collected by numismatists during the war, sutler tokens were generally ignored. It was not until later that they developed a strong following, by which time many had been lost. Today a large collection of sutlers tokens might encompass as many as 50 to 100 pieces, very occasionally up to 150. However, The Raymond Bunt Collection checks in at over 275 pieces. As sutler tokens were meant to be used, nearly all show signs of circulation. Unlike many other series, Proofs and special numismatic strikes were not part of the sutler series. In this way, they are more like colonial and early American coins, used at one time in circulation and highly prized as collectibles today.
The standard reference is Civil War Sutler Tokens and Cardboard Scrip, by David E. Schenkman. In this text, sutlers are arranged in order by state, then cataloged by denomination and design. In view of the importance of The Raymond Bunt Collection, Stack’s Bowers Galleries has invited Dave Schenkman to contribute an appreciation to be printed in the catalog, which he has agreed to and will further describe the historical importance and flavor of the series.
Eyes of token collectors and historians from all over America will be focused on the Stack’s Bowers Galleries New York Americana Sale. The auction will span over three days, from January 22-24, 2013, and will include several thousand lots. Printed catalogs are available upon request by calling 800.458.4646. Online bidding and pre-auction bids will begin in December 28, 2013, on StacksBowers.com, by email at auction@StacksBowers.com and by phone at 800.458.4646.
About Stack’s Bowers Galleries
Stack’s Bowers Galleries, a division of Fortune 500 Company Spectrum Group International Inc., was launched in January 2011, combining the extraordinary histories of Stack’s, the oldest rare coin auction and retail company in America, with Bowers and Merena Auctions, one of the world’s preeminent auctioneers of rare coins and paper money. The two companies unite to share a combined legacy that spans more than 100 years, and includes the cataloging and sale of many of the most valuable collections to ever cross an auction block — The John J. Ford, Jr. and Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. collections, The Harry W. Bass Jr., Collection, and The Norweb Collection — to name just a few. Topping off this amazing numismatic history is the inclusion of the world record for the highest price ever realized at auction for a rare coins: The legendary 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle that realized an astounding $7.59 million (sold in partnership with Sotheby’s). The company is headquartered in Irvine, California, with offices in New York, New Hampshire and Hong Kong. Stack’s Bowers Galleries is the Official Auctioneer for several important numismatic conventions, including the 2013 ANA World’s Fair of Money and the ANA/PNG Pre-Show, the 2013 ANA National Money Show, and the Whitman Coin and Collectibles Baltimore Expo, three times yearly.