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Scrip enthusiasts welcome

Scrip enthusiasts are invited to Pine Mountain State Resort Park at Pineville on Sept. 23 for the annual convention of the National Scrip Collectors Association (NSCA). The show will be held in the Convention Center at the Park’s Lodge, and is open to the public with free admission.

Anyone interested in the subject will see some rare examples, research materials. Scrip collectors and dealers will be present to sell, buy or trade scrip, and NSCA officers will be available to identify and appraise scrip tokens for members of the public. The NSCA publishes a catalogs of all of the various types of scrip, and these too will be available for purchase at the show. ​

“The history of scrip is what has always fascinated me,” said former member of the KY House of Representatives, and current President of the NSCA, Steve Cawood, who has collected the currency since childhood.

“Some of these mines that issued scrip had maybe 25 or 30 employees, others had maybe 2,500. Ninety percent of these towns, came and went and all most all the companies who issued scrip are now gone. When I was a little boy I had an uncle who was a mine supply salesman from Harlan, and I would travel around with him from commissary to commissary, and most of the managers would give me some scrip. They would give me a quarter in scrip so I could buy an ice cream and I’d walk out with two dimes or a dime and two nickles in script and I thought it was just the neatest thing.”

“Scrip” is an integral part of Appalachian History, and few may know, American history in whole.

“You load sixteen tons, what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go, I owe my soul to the company store,” familiar lines from an old Tennessee Ernie Ford song, that just may reflect a negative, hardtack perception of these times past, and take us all to the coal fields of Appalachia, but the story and history of “scrip” is far more complex and interesting than that.

​”Scrip” was the coinage, and sometimes the paper currency, which circulated in the coal camps and lumber camps all over America as a medium of credit (much like today’s gas credit cards) among employees and their employers. The use of scrip began shortly after the Civil War, and extended in some locations up through the 1960s. Today these metal tokens and paper notes are valued collector items sought by collectors from all over America.

“Most people associate scrip with only the coal industry,” said Cawood. “But rural merchants also used it in a different way. I remember scrip being very prominent in the community. As a child at school sometimes the kids had scrip more often than money. But 30 or 40 American industries used scrip, as there was a shortage of currency in these company’s and a shortage of money in general in the country at the time.”

Cawood went on to elaborate,” for example, when the mining industry came to Bell County in the late 1880s there was one bank in Pineville for the entire county. If a company established a mining company for instance, there was no population there, nothing in these areas. They would have to draw people to the area to work, provide housing and provisions with a commissary, and we can’t forget that in those days too, in almost every American industry a worker had to provide his own tools. Many think scrip was used for pay, but that was actually quite a rare thing in the America. These were closed societies and the way scrip was used is actually similar to how we use credit today.”

To know more about “scrip” and its history, and the NSCA visit their website at nationalscripcollectors.org.

The Pine Mountain State Resort Park and their Convention Center is located at 1050 State Park Rd, Pineville, KY. For more information the public may call the park at (606) 337-3066.