Coal Mines Company Scrip

Scrip was issued by the company owned stores to those employees, under certain circumstances, who made a request for it at the store between paydays. Scrip was also issued at the mine for 'powder', dynamite and caps. If an employee wanted to draw against his earned wages before payday, he could apply for "scrip" which could be spent only in that company's store or stores. The amount of scrip would then be deducted from his weekly or biweekly pay by the mine company payroll office. Most of the coal mine companies had their own stores which stocked basic commodities such as corn, beans, fruit, flour, canned goods, meat, sugar, candy, ice cream, tobacco, clothing, hardware and furniture.


During the early 1950's, changes in federal and state laws, along with the changing economic times put an end to the issuance of company currency know as scrip. Many companies issued metal tokens, or paper scrip, for use by their employees in their company owned stores. This practice was especially widespread in the coal fields of the Appalachian Mountains, where many coal miners and their families lived in company owned towns. In these company owned towns or "coal camps," the only store in town was usually owned or run on behalf of the coal company.


In theory, scrip could be drawn as an advance against earned wages and usable only by the employee to whom it was issued. There were some individuals hucksters who purchased scrip at 20% on the dollar. This would give the seller instant cash but a reduction in total purchase power.  In practice, many miners were never able to fully retire their debt to the company store and scrip became the unofficial currency of the community, even being placed in the collection plates of some coal town churches during Sunday church services.


Scrip was produced in an almost endless variety of sizes, shapes, colors and designs from a variety of materials. Most scrip was printed on paper and made into book form. It was also made of metal, although there are numerous examples of tokens made from "compressed fiber," a paper-like substance. Most fiber scrip was issued during World War II so the metals could be made available for the war.


Scrip was usually struck in the same values as U.S. Government currency. However, at least two companies issued a three-cent piece. The largest tokens were most frequently 1$ face value. Pieces with a higher face value are not very common. Paper scrip and special tokens, called "exploders," were used to facilitate the issuance and purchase of blasting powder, [dynamite] and caps at the work place.  Caps is a device used to detonate explosives.


The metal token usually had printed on it the name of the company or store issuing the scrip, and the value of the piece. A place name frequently appeared, not always where the token was used. Sometimes, the location of the general offices of the coal company appeared instead.  The Company home offices were in Dayton and Cincinnati Ohio but the metal tokens used in the coal fields or camps of West Virginia.

(Submitted by Pete Cole)

Submitted by Judy Hatfield