Saloon tokens were used from the 1880s to the late teens when Prohibition closed all the saloons in the United States. A customer would enter the saloon and order a beer, whiskey, game of pool, or a cigar. When the customer paid for the item and needed change, the proprietor would give him his change in the form of a token issued from his business. This would force the customer to come back to the same business to spend the token. Other businesses would operate in the same way, and each saloon only accepted their own tokens. If the customer came back, not only did he spend the token but he also bought other items while he was there. If the customer never came back, the proprietor kept the difference between the cost of manufacturing the token and the amount it was good for.
A game of pool was usually 2½ cents, beer and cigars were 5 cents, and whiskey was 12½ cents. Some saloon tokens were good for a “smile” – a smile was a small whiskey.
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Notes & Currency
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