Insights

'Good for' paper sutler 5-cent token issued during the Civil War sells for $290 at auction March 30

Holabird Western Americana Collections conducts sale
By , Coin World
Published : 04/18/14
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A “good for” paper sutler 5-cent token issued during the Civil War sold for $290 at auction March 30, 2014, by Holabird Western Americana Collections in Reno, Nev.

The token was issued in 1861 by J.R. Bostwick, who was the sutler, or private supplier, of nonmilitary items to soldiers in the 11th New York Cavalry, a unit known as “Scott’s 900” after its namesake Thomas A. Scott, assistant secretary of war.

This 5-cent paper scrip note indicates it was good for FIVE CENTS IN TRADE. It was signed by Bostwick as "sutler." Bostwick issued paper scrip in 5-, 10-, 25- and 50-cent denominations, often to extend credit to a soldier or as a way to give change when soldiers made purchases. A note at the bottom of the scrip note indicates it was printed by A. Hoen & Co. in Baltimore. The portrait may well have been a likeness of Bostwick.

Civil War battlefields were not known for supplying all the comforts of home and soldiers in the field often needed provisions beyond their regulation-issued military gear.

The solution during the Civil War was for civilian suppliers to contract with the Union Army to sell those nonmilitary items to regiments while the soldiers were far away from their homes and towns. These civilian merchants, known as sutlers, followed many Civil War regiments, offering necessary goods and food to soldiers.

In 1861 James B. Swain of New York was given authority to raise a volunteer regiment. He named it after his friend Thomas A. Scott, assistant secretary of war. 

Bostwick supplied “gloves, blacking, polishing stuffs, thread, needles, pipes, tobacco and cigars” and sometimes food, to that regiment, according to a booklet published in 1897, The Story of a Cavalry Regiment: "Scott's 900" Eleventh New York Cavalry, by Thomas West Smith. 

For more information about this item and other lots in the auction, visit the auction website at www.FHWAC.com or telephone the firm at 775-825-1624.

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