One thing leads to another: Bottle links to Civil War token

The Joys of Collecting column from the April 14, 2014, issue of Coin World
Published : 03/28/14
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Among other collecting hobbies, the study of historic bottles is very dynamic. Many bottles have direct connections to numismatics.

Steinfeld’s French Cognac Bitters were advertised on encased postage stamps issued in 1862 and 1863. As this was a patent medicine, it was popular with preachers and temperance advocates, never mind that its main ingredient was alcohol!

I have always enjoyed old bottles and have a small collection of them. Recently, when reading over the latest catalog of Glass Works Auctions,, I was startled to read the description of lot 283:

“Renovo for the Hair / D. Skidmore & Co. / Seneca Falls, N.Y. Unlisted. New York ca. 1860-1870. Dark purple amethyst 7 7/8” high, smooth base, double collar mouth. Pristine perfect condition, plenty of seed bubbles [little bubble imperfections that add character and value]. One of only two or three known examples, and considered to be one of the most desirable of all of the 1860s hair bottles. Est. $3,500-$5,000.”

I had never heard of Renovo or such a bottle before, but D. Skidmore & Co. was well-known to me and to just about everyone else interested in Civil War tokens.

Darius Skidmore operated Skidmore’s Hotel and Dining Saloon. This was a four-story block that offered a news room with all the latest papers and magazines, a billiard room, a chess room with tables, and “all kinds of refreshments in their season furnished on short notice,” the catalog states.

In 1863, Skidmore ordered tokens from New York City diesinker and minter William Bridgens.

The obverse advertises Skidmore’s Headquarters Hotel.

On the reverse is the national bird in a patriotic pose, but with a cigar added to its beak! The inscription refers to the cigar with GOOD FOR ONE.

These tokens, struck in copper and brass, are immensely popular today. Perhaps 50 or so are known in each metal today. An attractive Extremely Fine example is apt to cost in the low three figures.

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