Melbourne Traders' Tokens, 1848 and 1858

One hundred and fifty years ago, you could find advertisements on your small change.

Between 1849 and 1863, 62 Victorian businesses issued ‘tokens’, metal pieces made for businesses, which were used instead of official coins. This sheet looks at two Melbourne grocery stores that issued tokens: Annand, Smith & Co. of Collins Street, and Hide & De Carle of Elizabeth Street. These two businesses only lasted for a few years, but their tokens have endured.

Who were these men that put their names in people’s pockets?

The first Australia token to be used as currency

The first Australia token to be used as currency
Photographer: Rodney Start. Source: Museum Victoria

Annand, Smith & Co., Family Grocers

On 20 October 1849 a notice appeared in the Argus, saying that because of the shortage of copper coins in Melbourne “…Annand has had coined at Birmingham a large supply of penny pieces, having on one side… the inscription ‘Annand, Smith & Co., family grocers, Melbourne’.” George Annand needed change for his grocery store and as The Argus pointed out, his penny pieces, known as tokens, were also “a most active …advertisement” for his business.

Annand, Smith & Co. was a partnership between George Annand and Robert Smith.

In 1847 Smith opened a grocery store in Little Bourke Street where Annand soon joined him. The store changed address twice, first moving to Little Collins Street, then to 73 Collins Street, on the corner of Queen Street. The partnership was finished by 1852.

Melbourne Daily News was not impressed when Annand, Smith & Co. issued their tokens. On 30 October 1849 the Daily News published a story about the ‘cheap method of advertising adopted by a certain grocery firm’ and told of a possible law suit against Annand.

George Annand

Born in Banffshire, Scotland about 1794, George Annand is known to have come to Melbourne by 1844. Annand was a Melbourne City Councillor from 1847 to 1852. In 1853 Annand was elected to the Victorian Legislative Council and retired the next year. He died in 1856, at his home in Hawthorn.

Robert Smith

Robert Smith was an Englishman. Like Annand he was in Melbourne by 1844. As well as his partnership with George Annand, Smith was involved in several other businesses. He later moved to New Zealand where he died in 1885.

Hide & De Carle, Grocers & Wine Merchants

From1857 to 1861Thomas Hide and Edward De Carle ran a Grocery store on the east side of Elizabeth Street, near Bourke Street. The partners then went their separate ways, drawn in different directions in their search for fortune.

Elizabeth Street, Melbourne

The section of Elizabeth Street opposite Hide & De Carle’s grocery store.
Source: State Library of Victoria

Edward De Carle

Edward De Carle is thought to have been in Melbourne from 1849, and is said to have got his start in business by taking goods to the gold fields on a cart pulled by Newfoundland dogs. De Carle was the leading partner in Melbourne’s first shopping arcade, the Queen’s Arcade, in October 1853. In 1862 he moved to New Zealand, where he also issued tokens.

Hide & De Carle issued a huge number of these tokens in 1857 and 1858

Hide & De Carle issued a huge number of these tokens in 1857 and 1858
Photographer: Rodney Start. Source: Museum Victoria

Thomas Hide

Thomas Hide came to Victoria from England. By 1853 he was advertising his services as an auctioneer in Melbourne. In July that year he opened a General store at 11 Bourke Street. He moved his store to Swanston Street, then to 68 Elizabeth Street, before he entered into partnership with De Carle. Hide later kept a grocery store in South Melbourne.

Change for the times

The few facts available about these four men give some idea of the pace of life in early Melbourne. They all came to try and make their fortunes. The face of the town was being remade weekly, and they moved businesses around to try and get an advantage. They were involved in a wide range of business activities, because the opportunities for making a fortune were constantly evolving. And there wasn’t enough small change, so they had tokens made and got their names out into the streets, carried in people’s pockets.

Please note: Museum Victoria DOES NOT provide valuations and cannot tell you how much your object is worth. Please read our valuations infosheet for further advice. We will not publish or respond to comments asking us to value an object. 

Further Reading

Annear, R. 1995. Bearbrass: Imagining Early Melbourne. Port Melbourne: Mandarin.

Kelly, W. 1977 (first published 1859). Life in Victoria or Victoria in 1853 and Victoria in 1858. Kilmore: Lowden Publishing.

Museum Victoria InfoSheet: Australian Traders Tokens 1849 - 1874

Comments (12)

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Neville Dawson 20 June, 2009 20:35
I have an 1858 Hide and De Carie token that has the woman 'Justice' sitting holding weighing scales and a sailing ship in the background. Is that the usual design? the other side is the same as your coin photographed. If the Museum would like it I am happy to post it to you. Kind regards, Neville
Discovery Centre 26 June, 2009 13:48

Hi, Neville. The flipside of the 1858 token is just as you describe it, meaning that your item is the same as the one displayed here. It's unlikely that the museum would add a further identical token to its collection, although offers of donations are always welcome and referred to museum curators for the final word.

ivan cochrane 25 May, 2010 18:19
Discovery Centre 4 June, 2010 14:51

Hi Ivan, we have quite a few De Carle & Co tokens in our collection and it's likely that you will be able to identify your token by searching through those from 1855. To do this go to our page on E. De Carle & Co, which gives a history of their tokens and search through the tokens at the bottom of the page.

Glen Knight 13 September, 2010 07:33
I have an 1852 Melbourne Victoria like penny(token or pennny although penny and token is not mentioned on the item). The reverse side has a coat of arms on it and has the words "Peace" and "Plenty" on it. Can you identify this for me and advise me what it celebrates or respesents. Thanks Glen.
Glen 23 September, 2010 16:55
Further to my query dated 13 Sept please note that the date of the item is 1858 and not 1852 as preiously stated. Thanks Glen.
Discovery Centre 25 September, 2010 11:36
Hi Glen, on the information you have given it is difficult to be sure, but it is likely to be a penny token. The “peace and plenty” inscription was very common. The tokens were often anonymous (not belonging to a particular business) but maybe could have been over-stamped in some cases. The inscription probably did not refer to any particular celebration but it is interesting that some earlier coins were inscribed “peace, innocence and plenty” with the image of a lion and a lamb peacefully together. You may look at a description of a similar token in the museum's collection.
Joan 30 April, 2011 14:57
My great great grandfather opened Oyster Rooms in Great Bourke Street nearly opposite the Saracen's Head Inn in August 1852. Does anyone know the street number? thanks.
Mellissa Conn 3 September, 2011 20:17
I note that on your website about traders tokens, ít states 'Between 1849 and 1863, 62 Victorian businesses issued ‘tokens'Can you please tell me how this information is known and is there pershaps a list of traders who produced tokens? Thank you.
Discovery Centre 5 September, 2011 14:54

Hi Mellissa,

Our reference for this information is:

Sharples, John P. 1993. "A Catalogue of the Trade Tokens of Victoria 1848 to 1862." Journal of the Numismatic Association of Australia. vol. 7: p. 1-77.

R G Applebee 28 December, 2011 17:13
Have discovered delapidated one penny token Miller & Desmore Drapers Haberdashers & C Collins Street Melbourne - unable to find any reference!
Discovery Centre 30 December, 2011 15:03
Hi R. G. Applebee,

The only information held by Museum Victoria is a similar penny viewable through Collections Online (please click on this link). It also lists a relevant bibliography that may assist you.

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