Barry Radawiec (Collecting Civil War Tokens)


Barry Radawiec

While adding to his coin collection, Barry came across a Civil War Token. He decided to learn more about their history and soon started collecting them.

What are these mysterious “coins” that look almost like pennies?

Between 1861 and 1864, when the government was short of metal for making coins, private businesses minted tokens to use as store cards or even as street car fare. Most were made of copper or bronze. Sometimes the tokens were made of nickel, tin, silver, various alloys, or even rubber.

Barry collects two types of Civil War tokens: patriotic tokens and store cards. Patriotic tokens usually had pro-Union slogans or images, since most were minted in the North.

Store cards were tokens with at least one side advertising a privately owned business. They were supposed to be used only in that location, and were usually worth one cent.


Barry’s token collection is part of his much larger coin collection. He explains, “My aunt got me started collecting coins when I was 7 or 8. She gave me a dozen Indian cents. Then took me to the 5 & 10 cent store and bought me an album to keep them in. Back in the 40s and early 50s Indians were still found in circulation.”

As a collector Barry’s interest has changed from half cents, two cent, three cent silver, three cent nickel, half dimes, and most other donations thru dollars. He also collects error coins such as three legged buffalo nickels, or coins struck on the wrong blank resulting in an eleven cent dime or a thirty cent quarter, for example.

Barry enjoys sharing coins. “I get together with other collectors at the Ridge Coin Club of Sebring, which meets every month. I’m a member of Florida United Numismatists Association, and the American Numismatic Association. I’ve taken educational courses thru the ANA as well as FUN. I also visit coin stores when traveling.

“Coin shows are the main place to buy and sell coins. I’ve set up at the Ridge Coin Club Show since 2003. I show and sell some of my collection at the Tanglewood Hobby & Craft Show.

“I’d guess that at least a third of the people in Tanglewood have been or are coin collectors . . . pennies as a child, or how about the state quarter? How about that jar or sock full of coins you inherited. There is a start for a collection. Now get yourself a magnifying glass and research what you’ve got. I’d be more than happy to help. Besides collecting I appraise at no charge.”

Barry and his wife, Sandy, come from Michigan, where he worked as a manufacturing engineer. He tells about his family, “I met my high school sweetheart ice skating and we’ve been married 55 years . . . 2 children, 4 grands and 2 greats. Sandy and I have been full time residents since 2007. The previous 4 years we were snow birds.”barry_garden

He plays petanque, cards, gets in the pool sometimes. He is a member of neighborhood watch, installs humidistats, and watches houses. He currently grows 90 – 100 orchids outside.”

Barry’s main interest now is Civil War tokens. They are quite scarce since new ones are no longer issued.

According to Wikipedia, “Civil War tokens became illegal after the United States Congress passed a law on April 22, 1864 prohibiting the issue of any one or two-cent coins, tokens or devices for use as currency. On June 8, 1864 an additional law was passed that forbade all private coinage.”

“On April 22, 1864, Congress enacted the Coinage Act of 1864. While the act is most remembered for the introduction of the phrase “In God We Trust” on the newly created two-cent piece, it also effectively ended the usage of Civil War tokens. In addition to authorizing the minting of the two-cent piece, the act changed the composition of the one-cent piece from a copper-nickel alloy (weighing 4.67 grams) to a lighter, less thick piece composed of 95% copper (weighing 3.11 grams). The new one-cent piece was much closer in weight to the Civil War tokens, and found greater acceptance among the public.”

Unfortunately Barry’s best coins are kept in the bank, so they’re not around to see and handle daily. An elaborate security system protects the coins he keeps at home.

Barry can be seen riding around Tanglewood in the Koin Korner cart. You may contact him by calling 863-382-8958 or by writing to




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