Monday, November 5, 2012

Saloon Tokens

My start into writing historical western romances began with Sarah’s Brass Token. When I first began, the working title was Sarah’s Wooden Nickel. I soon discovered that the wooden nickel came into play long after this story took place so I had to find another title. Research led me to tokens.
Saloons and places for adult entertainment wanted customers to return so whenever they had to make change, instead of giving the patron a half penny, etc, they gave them tokens that were only good in their establishment.  Of course the use of tokens wasn’t limited to just saloons. General stores, drug stores, mills, coal mines, barbers were among other merchants who utilized tokens in daily transactions.  Most were made from cheaper metals like brass.

I found a wonderful site for listing tokens used in saloons from 1870 – 1920 so for those curious please take a gander at Saloon Tokens.

Here’s a brief excerpt from Sarah’s Brass Token (soon to be rereleased)

                “No need for name calling, Scratch,” Horace said. “Sarah has a right to be here like anyone else.”

                “But she ain’t got the right to shop if she ain’t got no funds.” Scratch sidled up to Sarah and leaned his weight against the counter. He fished in his pocket and withdrew what appeared to be a coin, before he grabbed Sarah’s hand and planted the object on her palm. “Anytime you need a job, you jest come see me.”
               Sarah stared at her hand, and the color drained from her face. Tabor took another step closer, intent on seeing what she held, and Sally May peered over her shoulder.              
                “What is it?” Sally May asked. “I don’t think I’ve seen a coin like that before.”
                “You don’t need to know what it is.” Horace narrowed his eyes. “Fetch five more air-tights of peaches for Mr. Nates, Sally May. Mr. Davis, you’d best be careful not to spread your filth in my establishment.”
                Scratch chuckled, and Tabor sensed the tension mounting as everyone waited for Sarah’s reaction.
~ * ~
                Sarah’s fingers curled around the brass token and stuffed it into her pocket. She’d suffered many indignities since moving to Banjo, but none more searing than the insult now hidden between folds of material. A more naive woman wouldn’t know its meaning, but Sarah knew. She’d been propositioned once before with just such a token. Scratch sold them to his customers at the Sassy Lady to use as coin for “special services.” That way his ladies couldn’t cheat him. He’d made no secret of his wish to add her to his harem.
                 As Sarah struggled for control, her eyes darted about the crowded shop. She paused when she saw Tabor Nolan standing to the side, obviously feigning interest in a display of knives. Rather than comfort her, his proximity disarmed her.
                Oh, God. He witnessed my humiliation. He knows. He knows my circumstances.
                Gathering her wits, she took a deep breath, wishing anew the humid day hadn’t left wet patches on her already stained dress.

Currently, I'm polishing this story some more for rerelease and hope to have it available to readers again by Christmas. In the meantime, I invite you to look at my website;


Caroline Clemmons said...

Ciara, you certainly captured my interest. Now I HAVE to know more. Thanks for sharing,sort of. ☺ Now I'll have to buy the book when it's out.

Paty Jager said...

The tokens have come up several times in stories and in blog posts. But it's always interesting to learn more and get a snippet of a ew story. Thanks!

Ciara Gold said...

I thought them interesting, especially since in a saloon setting they were often used for "services" from calico queens. The owners didn't trust the girls with real money so this was a good way to make sure the ladies didn't cheat them. And Caroline, thanks bunches for the kind words.

It's been a crazy semester so my writing has taken a back seat to other things. I'm getting back to it slowly.

Ellen O'Connell said...

I'm not sure how I missed this post, Ciara (well, yes, I am but I'm sorry I did). Thanks for the info. Tokens are something I'd never heard of and am glad to add to my western lore.