iN PHOTOS: Okanagan residents once used tokens to buy bread and milk | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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iN PHOTOS: Okanagan residents once used tokens to buy bread and milk

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Museum and Archives of Vernon

It used to be common for Okanagan businesses to add their own coins into circulation.

Shoppers used to be able to purchase staples like bread and milk with merchant tokens that were issued by the bakeries or dairy producers.

One old coin from Buchan’s Bakery in Vernon reads “Good for one loaf.”

That token was dug up by Marisa Parker-Hinz, an archivist with the Museum & Archives of Vernon. It’s difficult to know exactly when the tokens would have been in circulation, but she searched old records to find that Buchan’s was in business from February 1928 to October 1944. It was located on Barnard Avenue, which is now 30 Avenue.

The tokens did not have a year stamped onto them.

“I’m wondering if the food tokens were issued by businesses around the same time as the Second World War ration tokens,” Parker-Hinz said.

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Penticton Museum and Archives

A similar token was found at the Penticton Museum and Archives from Home Bakery, as well as other tokens from the same era that could be exchanged for milk.

“Good for one pint milk” reads another token from Springfield Dairy in Penticton. It lists a three digit phone number on the coin. Other milk tokens from Penticton were found from Royal Dairy and Valley Dairy. None of these producers have been in operation for decades.

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Penticton Museum and Archives

“They were very, very helpful during that period of time,” said Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki, who is also an avid coin collector.

“I believe they were given to people who worked for those companies – more of a perk because of the hard times during those days.”

Before the Second World War would have made food rations necessary, Vassilaki suspects the Great Depression also contributed towards the need for the tokens.

“Everybody gave out tokens, even the railroad,” he said.

As recently as the 1970s and 1980s, Penticton would issue its own souvenir one-dollar tokens to promote Peachfest.

At Co-op stores like one that used to be in Penticton, members used to be paid their dividends in tokens that had to be spent at the store. Single tokens can be found up to $100 in value.

But it wasn't economical to produce tokens in smaller towns, according to Peachland historian Richard Smith. Although orchards, packing houses and canneries were historically active in the community, there was not a large enough population to warrant the cost of producing tokens specific to Peachland.

"They were a Kelowna and Penticton thing," Smith said. 

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/tokencatalog.com

To contact a reporter for this story, email Dan Walton or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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