Telephone Brass Token.

The Forerunner of the Telephone Card

The first token that was actually deposited in a phone appeared in the 1890's. It was produced for the Sunset Telephone and Telegraph Company in California. The brass token bore the company name and the value, "Good for One Switch."

Before there were telephone cards to collect and use, telephone tokens were a widespread medium of exchange for people wanting to talk with someone across the street.

Most of them have taken the form of round tokens cut with alternating grooves, such as one on the reverse, and two on the obverse.

Italian telephone tokens.Obverse.
(Dickson Niew Collection)
Italian telephone tokens.Reverse.
(Dickson Niew Collection)

Italian telephone tokens, ~24mm in diameter, brass/bronze (seems to vary).

These tokens are interesting for two reasons:

First, the number under "TELEFONICO" indicates the year and month of use, with the first two digits giving the year, and the second two digits giving the month. The token show above, "7711" was used in the 11th month of '77, or November, 1977.

Costruzioni Minuterie Metalliche

Second, the symbol above "GETTONE" is a mintmark, consisting of 2-3 letters in a recessed shape.

Four mintmarks were used, and some dates are known with multiple mintmarks, as well as many dates lacking a mintmark.

Urmet Torino
Industria Politecnica Meridionale

Costruzioni Minuterie Metalliche
Emilio Senesi Medaglie



These tokens seems to be reasonably common, although assembling a complete collection of dates and mintmarks would be quite challenging.

Telephone tokens are relatively inexpensive despite the fact that some are very rare. This is mainly because they are not a very popular collectible.



  1. Hi Dickson,
    Interesting telephone tokens.
    They are rare but currently inexpensive?
    Haha, reminds us of the countermarked coins where they were often ignored or regarded as damaged coins previously.
    Now, many of them are more expensive than the host coins.
    Thanks a lot for sharing, Dickson :)

  2. Dear whycollect,
    This is just another curios and collectable itens,but interesting enough to recall our old days of using such tokens to make a call.
    Today,for the young generation,their finger slide on the screen only!haha!

  3. Hi Dickson,
    Nope, you're wrong.
    Not only the young generation.
    Go and sit down at some cafes in KL and one may be able to see even the old generation doing these finger sliding acts, hahaha.
    Hmmm, still remember those good old days where handsfree were just introduced.
    Watching people talking to themselves inside the car, thought they were crazy.
    Haha, don't be surprise in a few years to come, we will see people plucking things and doing weird signs with their hands out of thin air.
    Imagine, even our thoughts now can be transformed into pictures.
    Pretty scary, right? haha.
    Thanks a lot for sharing, Dickson :)

  4. Dear whycollect,
    More scary if you receive a hand written letter from your grandson and send by normal mail in future!haha!
    Still remember those days when we are waitting for the postman to deliver our daily love letters!
    If you send a love letter to your lover today,sure she will hugs and kiss you for hours!haha!