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Zodiac Tokens

Zodiac Tokens

In both astrology and astronomy, the zodiac is a circle of twelve 30° divisions of celestial longitude. The division of the ecliptic (the path of the sun relative to the earth) into the zodiac signs originated in Babylonian somewhere around 700 BCE. Names of constellations of stars are associated with the Zodiac, such as Aries, Taurus, Gemini, and the 9 others as a ring the rotates around the earth.

The signs of the zodiac are a favorite theme for modern coins, tokens, and medals. Some countries have issued coins with astrology signs, and countless private mints have produced tokens and medals with these depictions. A Google search for 'zodiac tokens' produces hundreds of different patterns, many of which are sexually explicit.

 

So, what is a token? Sometimes it's not an easy answer, but the purposes of this page, a token is:

 

  • A voucher that can be exchanged for goods or services, typically one given as part of a promotional offer. Ex: "Redeem this token for a free dessert." It is non-currency that has a monetary value to the distributor, used in place of money usually for a practical reason.


Their numismatic (coin collector) value depends only on the amount of precious metal they contain. People involved with astrology would likely pay more than metal value, but most coin dealers are not swayed by such considerations and pay only base value for these pieces.

Here are two 'rules of thumb' for evaluating zodiac coins, tokens, and medals.

 

  1. If the piece is made of gold or silver, it is worth its weight in precious metal. Determining the amount of precious metal in a piece involves knowing its weight (easy) and its purity (hard). Sterling silver, for instance, is 92.5 percent pure, so a coin weighing 25 grams contains 0.925 x 25 = 23.1 grams of silver. Consult a jeweler if you are unsure of purity. Once you know the amount of gold or silver, convert it to troy ounces (there are 31.1 grams in one troy ounce) and go to kitco.com to find the value in US dollars per troy ounce. Do the multiplication, and that is the value of your zodiac piece.
     

  2. If your zodiac piece is made of brass, nickel, pewter, zinc, or other non-precious metal, it is worth between $2 and $20, depending on design, overall appeal, and amount of wear.
     

  3. No matter what you think a coin, token or medal is worth, its really only worth what YOU can get for it.

 

Now having said all that, lets get onto the fun of collecting them.

The National Transport Tokens of England

These aluminum tokes were created for a simple way to pay for transportation. They are small, dime-sized stampings. It turned out they were very popular with the patrons and many token collectors have scarfed them up. Information on them was difficult to find, but after to patience and diligent looking, I was able to find complete information on the mint runs. This was a 30 million run across two mints and two years (1994/1995). The Birmingham Mint in England and Roger Williams Mint in Massachusetts did the work for the 10 pence tokens. Of the 30 million, the Gemini sign seems to be the one that comes up as the most difficult to find. They are dated with the correct year on the obverse side. Of all the designs, the dies were shared except in the case of Capricorn, which has two variants on both sides.

 

Since these are made of aluminum they wear and dink very quickly. Collectors are looking for the nearly uncirculated ones and will pay a premium for them.

Capricorn Variant Details

Italian Biglietto Autolinee Cap Transport Tokens

These tokens were struck in Nickel at 29-millimeter diameter and I have been unable to determine the circulation numbers. I was able to find that these were minted back in 1977 to 1978. As with many tokens, they are a bit rough with the finish but being made of nickel they have not worn or tarnished. I see sets on Italian "eBay" that are listed at 12 euro. I know this is not a great picture of them, but they are hard to capture being shiny nickel and the designs are not well stamped.

Crackerjack Zodiac Tokens (1949 - 1959 CE)

According to www.crackerjackcollectors.com, these were produced by the National Organ Supply Company from 1949 to 1959 from dense polystyrene, along with various small plastic animals or people charms. This set of prizes are catalog number 1182 in the Cracker Jack catalog. I rarely see these come up on the auction sites and the combination colored ones like the Libra below seem to fetch crazy prices. Being that each zodiac sign could be made in a hundred different colors, I am very certain that Crackerjack toy and token collectors have some strange John Nash matrix listing them all in every color combination with strings to each one. And, another section for the tokens they are looking for with news articles and web page printouts all over their walls. I had a hard time figuring out where these should go in my collection being that they are plastic and mass produced, but I decided that they should go under tokens being that they are now used to replace actual currency! I am in need of a Scorpio, so if you have a second, I would be happy to purchase it from you.

Sin City Video Tokens

I believe these were given out as a promotional item to advertise the website and could be turned in to play video games at the location. To date, I have only seen four of these zodiac designs: Leo with two different obverses, Scorpio, Aquarius, and Virgo. I would love to know if there are more signs.

Casino Silver Strike Tokens & Casino Other Tokens

Silver Strike slot machines were introduced by International Game
Technology (IGT) in Reno, Nevada in 1992. At the time, slot machines
were still in the early days of becoming computerized. While the bonus
round for most slot machines offers players a chance to rack up big
credits, a Silver Strike machine delivers a silver coin as a prize.

 

Each casino is responsible for the design and denomination of each
Silver Strike token. When the machines were first installed, the coins
were .999 silver, now many are silver and copper clad but still have
value. Each strike token is designed as a large silver casino chip,
featuring customized artworks specifically designed for each casino.

 

The player decides whether to keep the coin or cash in at a casino cage.
The dollar amount is printed on the front, with most starting at $10. 
Casinos often order several different designs to keep the players
gambling in hopes of collecting a full set or to commemorate special
occasions.

 

Special tokens with either larger values or limited editions are also
regular features of the machine. These special tokens would receive
a red or blue plastic case, with a very limited number being available in each machine. And of a consequence, they are very difficult to find because most of them are turned in to redeem the cash value, making them very rare to collectors.

 

As technology moved on, casinos wanted to get out of the coin business and many of these machines were removed. Bigger and flashier games, geared more towards the video gamers were popular. Also, casinos had the additional investment of paying for the design and dispensation on the strikes. The cheaper tokens, no longer .999 silver, depleted their value outside of the casino. (Although special .999 silvers are still occasionally released.) As each gambling hall abandoned their machines and discontinued minting the strikes, they became collectors’ pieces and can bring far more their original value. Once a coin goes out of circulation, it becomes worth much more to a collector or antique store. Some rare strikes can be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars!

Silver Strike Slot Machine

Riviera Holographic $10 Zodiac Tokens

This limited edition set was held to a total of 1000 complete sets of twelve and I have been unable to find who did the holographic work on these. These are one of the few holographic token sets I have ever seen and I remember that when they were released they were quite a novelty. These are very difficult to photograph and don't do the holograms justice. They change colors (see the Capricorn) and angles as you move them around. These seem to go for about $25 a piece now on some of the token collectors' sights and they cross over several collection types (Tokens, Casino Chips, Holographic and Zodiac). Examples of the Capricorn, Leo, and Aquarius below:

Moon & Stars Obverse

Artichoke Joe's Zodiac Tokens

Joe's Casino is found in San Bruno California, well off the Vegas strip. His establishment has created Zodiac tokens in the Eastern Tradition since the early 1990s. Some of the Tokens that they had struck were done in .999 silver and will be clearly marked so on the obverse, others were done in bi-metal brass and cupro-nickel. Not all tokens have a year on them. The Nevada Coin Mart minted these but no circulation numbers are known.

Cupro-Nickel Bi-Metal Tokens

1 Ounce .999 Silver Token Examples

St. Louis Bay Casino Magic Zodiac Tokens

These were released several years back as a bi-metal token for a promotional event. They're made from Brass and .999 silver. The designs are well done and they are quite popular on all the trading sites fetching $18 to $25 a piece. Examples below:

What's Missing?

I know that there is a ton more stuff out there. I don't have pictures of it, or I just plain don't know it even exists. I want to fill in some European Tokens for sure, and maybe some of those adult tokens eventually, but just the zodiac sides. If you know of something that you think would fit here, let me know and I will look into it. 

©2017 by Brad Zylman