Ararat - An Ararat resident has unearthed a rare traders' token while gold detecting.
The token, circa 1862, is from Stawell tea merchant and general storekeepers Crothers and Co.
Tokens were used widely in Australia between 1849 and 1874.
According to Museum Victoria, in the late 1840s there was a small change crisis in the Colony of New South Wales. This change crisis was most severely felt in Melbourne. In 1848 the Melbourne grocery firm Annand, Smith and Company arranged for a private mint in Birmingham, England to make some copper pieces the same size as a penny coin. On the one side they placed their name and business and on the other a figure of Britannia like the one on a real penny. When these arrived in 1849 they gave them out in change as pennies from their shop. There was outrage in the papers the next day demanding that police and law courts take immediate action. However, the tokens were not forgeries and clearly stated what company had issued them.
Soon other shops sought supplies of these tokens for use as small change and they were eventually made in Australia after coining presses were imported.
There were at least 124 Australian firms that issued tokens and they were issued in every colony until they were eventually made illegal.
The Crothers and Co token features the wording Crothers and Co Tea Merchant and General Storekeepers on one side and The Original Cash Store Main Street Stawell on the other.
According to website Baldwin's (which is dedicated to the collection of coins) the three Crothers' brothers, William, David and Hugh, arrived from Canada in August 1854.
They travelled the country (most likely trying their luck at the various gold fields) for 10 years before deciding to open a store in Stawell in 1865. After a number of years David left the partnership and opened his own store in Melbourne. The other brothers continued their business until they retired in 1900. In 1910 William was living in Armadale, Hugh was in Stawell and David, still running his own business, was in Oakleigh.
They issued their tokens after they became illegal, the first penny and the halfpenny being issued in 1865, with other two tokens issued in later years.