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Confederate Counterstamps

Author: Stack's Bowers Galleries / Thursday, June 02, 2016 / Categories: Answers for the Avid Collector

Question: I was wondering if there are any coins or tokens, United States or otherwise, that were counterstamped by the Confederate States of America or anyone else during the Civil War era, 1861-1865? A dealer told me there were some but was not specific and I don't recall ever seeing any.

Answer: Perhaps the most famous counterstamps from the Civil War South are pieces stamped by J.B. Schiller of New Orleans. In Russ Rulau's Standard Catalog of United States Tokens 1700-1900, there is a listing for Rulau No. LA-05, 19mm in size, cupro-nickel, "J.B. SCHILLER" counterstamped on face of U.S. 1860 Indian Head cent, large X counterstamp over ONE on reverse. The book also includes this information:

"John B. Schiller, an importer of spirits, also became the proprietor of the Sazerac Coffee House in 1859. This saloon at 16 Royal Street was in the Merchants Exchange building and became the favorite watering hole of the local business community. As an importer, Schiller was the agent for Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils of Limoges, France, and served the Sazerac brand of cognac exclusively. …

In our 2011 Philadelphia Americana auction (and earlier, in our American Numismatic Rarities 2006 sale of the Lake Michigan and Springdale Collections) we offered another counterstamp possibly tied to New Orleans in the Civil War, a connection we made based on that stamp's similarity to the Schiller pieces. Our 2011 listing included:

CAMERON HOUSE / 5 / 5 (rev) on an 1860 Indian head cent. Brunk C-130. Rulau MV 42E. Host coin Good. 
Last sold by us in June 2006, described in part, as follows: "A potentially important countermark, known to Brunk only on an 1859 cent. The marks on this piece are very similar to the famous J.B. Schiller /X token issued during the siege of New Orleans, a counterstamp now worth thousands of dollars. That mark, like this one, appears only on copper-nickel cents and, like this one, it features a name and a denomination—in this case, 5 cents. Cent-sized tokens that passed for one cent were in fairly ready supply during the Civil War. Despite the coin shortage, it seems hard to believe that normal circumstances would allow for a cent piece to be passed as five cents in value. The Schiller token was issued during the most trying of times in a place with an acute money shortage. The only places with similar shortages in this era were other cities in the Confederacy or, possibly but less likely, the West. Schiller's token was identifiable because he also issued scrip valued at 25 and 50 cents. Unfortunately, there were Cameron Houses in many cities, making positive geographical identification challenging."