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Bramwell hosts its first coal company scrip show

Bluefield Daily Telegraph photo by Eric DiNovo Eugene Lavender of Bramwell looks over Jay Chatman’s extensive collection of coal scrip during the inaugural National Coal Heritage Area/Coal Heritage Trail Scrip Show at the Bramwell Depot Saturday.
Bluefield Daily Telegraph photo by Eric DiNovo
Eugene Lavender of Bramwell looks over Jay Chatman’s extensive collection of coal scrip during the inaugural National Coal Heritage Area/Coal Heritage Trail Scrip Show at the Bramwell Depot Saturday.

BRAMWELL, W.Va.  — Company scrip was the coin of the realm in the coalfields in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but now the scrip, or tokens as they are also called, are novelties among collectors, with some commanding pretty high prices. The inaugural National Coal Heritage Area/ Coal Heritage Trail Scrip Show had a lot of scrip on display Saturday at the Bramwell Depot.

“I was looking for some Mill Creek scrip,” Bramwell Mayor Louise Stoker said as she looked through Jay Chapman’s three-ring binders filled with coal company scrip. Chapman turned to a page that displayed a full set of scrip from the Mill Creek Coal and Coke Co. — one of three coal mines around Bramwell along with the Buckeye Coal & Coke, and the Caswell Creek Mine.

“I don’t know that I’ve seen scrip from Caswell,” Chapman said. “It would probably have some value if you have it.”

Donald Clifford started collecting coal mine company scrip after he had already been collecting coins.

“It’s a long story,” Clifford of St. Albans said. “I got interested in coin collecting when I was growing up in Greenbrier County in 1959 or ‘60. I had paper routes delivering the Charleston Daily-Mail and later the Charleston Gazette. I liked the Daily-Mail. It came out in the afternoon.”

Clifford said his customers paid with change, and he got interested in it. He went from coins to collecting tokens for saloons, general stores, pool rooms and other businesses. He even helped a writer compile a book on tokens.

I don’t buy any coins for the silver value,” he said. “The coins I buy have to have some numismatic value.” He said that as a young man, he found a penny in his mothers coin box that would be worth $100 to $150 today…

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