Trade Token

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Miller Brothers trade token (front and back)
Image: Naomi Andrzejeski (photographer)
Source: Museum Victoria

Imagine being allowed to make your own coins and using them to give change in your shop.

During the gold rush, a shortage of copper coins — pennies and halfpennies — made it legal to do so. Victorian shopkeepers were permitted to issue their own copper coins, as long as they looked different from official currency. This led to some imaginative designs, advertising the shopkeepers’ businesses.

These unofficial coins were called ‘trade tokens’. Between 1849 and 1862, 32 different businesses in Melbourne issued trade tokens.

Miller Brothers were amongst those businesses that issued trade tokens. They had four lots of tokens struck for them by Thomas Stokes in 1862.

Miller Brothers knew the power of visual merchandising. Their tokens show one of the coaches they manufactured, as did their advertisements in The Argus and Melbourne directories.