The NSCA is a group of numismatics who collect coal mine scrip, lumber scrip, merchant and mill tokens and mining paraphernalia of all kinds. Last year, more than 250 scrip collectors came to Cumberland Gap from at least 12 states for the meeting. So far this year members of NSCA from Florida to California have pre-registered.
Scrip was a form of credit that allowed employees to borrow an advance on their future earnings in the form of tokens made of paper, various metals, fiber or plastic which they could then use to purchase food, clothing, tools or most anything that was for sale in a country store, at a commissary, located in the mining camp, or company town. Scrip was issued in detonations from 1˘ to $20, and occasionally in odd denominations such as 2 1/2˘, or 12 1/2˘.
The most common for of scrip was issued by coal companies. The tokens were also used in lumber camps, textile mills, railroads, packing plants and other industries. Country stores also issued “merchant tokens” as a form of credit, tokens which could be redeemed only at the business issuing them.
There were literally thousands of different tokens issued in our area. In Bell County alone, there were more than 150 scrip issued; while in Lee County more than 100 were distributed; Harlan County had more than 200 companies distributing the tokens; and Claiborne County issued more than 50 type of scrip.
The south wasn’t the only area to distribute scrip. It was common for coal companies in 25 states such as California, Washington, to Pennsylvania to issue scrip. Lumber companies all over the United States issued scrip to their workers.
If you want to learn more about this unique part of local history, the meeting will be held Saturday, October 4 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is open to the public and there is no charge. Membership in the NSCA is open to the public and the annual dues is only $20. Books on scrip published by NSCA will be available for sale. Scrip will be available for sale or trade and collections may be appraised at no charge, and individual pieces or entire collection of scrip can be sold.
The NSCA meeting at Cumberland Gap is being hosted by Crawford Blakeman, Sr., of Middlesboro and Steve Cawood, of Pineville.
C.J. Harte is a correspondent for the Middlesboro Daily News. Contact him via e-mail at email@example.com.