The following is a re-post from Q. David Bowers’s “Bowers on Collecting” weekly column on Coin Update.
I enjoy numismatic research. The more obscure the subject, the better.
Puzzling me for a long time is the 28-millimeter token with COLL BRANDON & CO, 2 ½ Cts. ASPINWALL on one side and a railroad train on the other.
Aspinwall is the old name for what today is the city of Colon on the Atlantic side of the Isthmus of Panama. The train is the Panama Railroad, a narrow-gauge line opened in 1855 to connect Panama City on the Pacific coast with Aspinwall.
These tokens are not particularly rare, and I have traced several dozen of them in auctions over a long period of years. Many are overstruck on other coins or tokens, such as large copper cents and Canadian tokens (the illustrated token is over a Canadian bank halfpenny). They were made by the Scovill Manufacturing Company in Waterbury, Connecticut. Why so many are overstrikes is one mystery.
A larger mystery involves the tokens and their use. I have never seen a worn one. Were they used in commerce? Who or what was Coll Brandon & Co.? One account has it that these tokens were used to pay workers on the Panama Railroad. Another suggests that the issuer was a tavern in Aspinwall, and these were used for drinks. My search on the Internet has not turned up any specific information regarding the issuer.
All good wishes,