Company scrip

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Scrip used by Olga Coal Company, Coalwood, West Virginia Coal scrip.jpg
Scrip used by Olga Coal Company, Coalwood, West Virginia

Company scrip is scrip (a substitute for government-issued legal tender or currency) issued by a company to pay its employees. It can only be exchanged in company stores owned by the employers. [1] [2] [3] In the United Kingdom, such truck systems have long been formally outlawed under the Truck Acts. In the United States, payment in scrip became illegal in 1938 as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act. [4]


In the United States, mining and logging camps were typically created, owned and operated by a single company. [5] These locations, some quite remote, were often cash poor; [1] [2] [3] even in ones that were not, workers paid in scrip had little choice but to purchase goods at a company store, as exchange into currency, if even available, would exhaust some of the value via the exchange fee. With this economic monopoly, the employer could place large markups on goods, making workers dependent on the company, thus enforcing employee "loyalty". [5] [6] While scrip was not exclusive to the coal industry, an estimated 75 percent of all scrip used was by coal companies in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia. [7] Because of this, many derived nicknames for the type of currency originated in the Appalachian mining communities, such as "Flickers," "Clackers," and "Dugaloos." [8]

Tokens were made out of a variety of metals, including brass, copper, zinc, and nickel. [8] There were additionally "compressed fibre" coins produced during World War II in an effort to conserve metals for wartime production. [8]

Lumber company scrip

In 19th century United States forested areas, cash was often hard to come by. [1] [2] [3] This was particularly true in lumber camps, where workers were commonly paid in company-issued scrip rather than government issued currency. [3]

In Wisconsin, for example, forest-products and lumber companies were specifically exempted from the state law requiring employers to pay workers' wages in cash. [3] Lumber and timber companies frequently paid their workers in scrip which was redeemable at the company store. Company-run stores served as a convenience for workers and their families, but also allowed the companies to exploit workers for increased profit. In certain cases, employers included contract provisions requiring employees to patronize the company stores. Employees who wanted to change their scrip to cash generally had to do so at a discount. [3] [5]

Lumber company scrip was redeemable in lumber as well as other merchandise. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, such an option may have appealed to new settlers in the region, who worked in the lumber camps in winter to earn enough money to establish a farm. Taking some of their wages in lumber may have helped them build a much-needed house or barn. [3]

Yawkey-Bissell Lumber Company Scrip for White Lake, Wisconsin Yawkey-Bissell Lumber Company Scrip.jpg
Yawkey-Bissell Lumber Company Scrip for White Lake, Wisconsin

Coal company scrip

Various forms of coal scrip Coal Scrip from Hot Coal West Virginia.jpg
Various forms of coal scrip

Coal scrip is "tokens or paper with a monetary value issued to workers as an advance on wages by the coal company or its designated representative". [9] As such, coal scrip could only be used at the specific locality or coal town of the company named. Because coal scrip was used in the context of a coal town, where there were usually no other retail establishments in that specific remote location, employees who used this could only redeem their value at that specific location. [10] As there were no other retail establishments, this constituted a monopoly. The coal town was established by out-of-state corporations and fueled by cheap labor provided by European immigrants who came to Appalachia in search of work in the growing coal industry. [11]

The use of coal scrip dates to the late 1800s as coal companies looked for a way to eliminate keeping large cash reserves. [11] Rather than receiving compensation in United States currency, many miners received payment entirely in scrip, which could be used only at the town store, eliminating any prospects of acquiring generational wealth. [12] The result was a situation in which miners were perpetually in debt to their employer, receiving only an "advance against unearned wages." [13] Because the company store was often the only place to spend scrip, the company could charge exorbitant prices in these rural communities compared to prices in major cities. [14]

$1 scrip coin from Peerless Coal & Coke Co., Vivian, West Virginia Peerless Coal Scrip.jpg
$1 scrip coin from Peerless Coal & Coke Co., Vivian, West Virginia

There was no uniform design, but each coin generally identified the location of the coal company town and predominantly featured the words "non-transferrable" to communicate to recipients it could not be transferred for U.S. currency. [12]

Coal scrip was deemed unconstitutional if non-transferable in the early-twentieth century, but continued to exist in Kentucky and West Virginia until officially outlawed by Congress in 1967. [15] [16] Much of the lack of generational wealth in coal country in West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky today can be traced to the inability to acquire personal wealth in coal towns in the previous century.

The country musician Merle Travis, on the album Folk Songs of the Hills , makes reference to coal scrip in the song, "Sixteen Tons", made famous by Tennessee Ernie Ford.


Company scrip from Badische Anilin- und Soda-Fabrik, 2 Pfennig Gutschein, ca. 1918 Badische Anilin- & Soda-Fabrik 2 Pfennig Gutschein.tiff
Company scrip from Badische Anilin- und Soda-Fabrik, 2 Pfennig Gutschein, ca. 1918

From 1914 to 1924, during and following the First World War, a variety of forms of German scrip were issued, including Notgeld, Lagergeld, Gutscheine and Serienscheine. Such currencies were issued "by principalities, German colonial governments, cities, large corporations, small businesses, prisoner-of-war camps, and in some cases, individuals." [17]

Modern practice

The practice has been documented as recently as 2019. On September 4, 2008, the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice ruled that Walmart de Mexico, the Mexican subsidiary of Walmart, must cease paying its employees in part with vouchers redeemable only at Walmart stores. [18] On May 21, 2019, The Washington Post published an article highlighting Amazon's new system of "gamification", which rewards employees who complete high numbers of orders with Swag Bucks in a game-like system, which can then be used to buy Amazon-themed merchandise. [19] However, the Amazon employees are also paid wages in ordinary national currencies.

See also

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Exonumia Numismatic items other than coins and paper money

Exonumia are numismatic items other than coins and paper money. This includes "Good For" tokens, badges, counterstamped coins, elongated coins, encased coins, souvenir medallions, tags, wooden nickels and other similar items. It is related to numismatics, and many coin collectors are also exonumists.

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Truck wages Form of payment

Truck wages are any arrangement under which wages are paid, partly or only, in the form of payment in kind ; credit with retailers; or a money substitute, such as scrip, chits, vouchers or tokens, rather than with conventional money. "Truck", in this context, is a relatively archaic English word meaning "exchange" or "barter", which now is normally used only in a pejorative sense in phrases such as "have no truck with...", meaning to have nothing to do with the subject in question.

Scrip Any substitute for legal tender or currency

A scrip is any substitute for legal tender. It is often a form of credit. Scrips have been created for exploitative payment of employees under truck systems, and for use in local commerce at times when regular currency was unavailable, for example in remote coal towns, military bases, ships on long voyages, or occupied countries in wartime. Besides company scrip, other forms of scrip include land scrip, vouchers, token coins such as subway tokens, IOUs, arcade tokens and tickets, and points on some credit cards.

Gift card Prepaid-stored-value money card

A gift card also known as gift certificate in North America, or gift voucher or gift token in the UK is a prepaid stored-value money card, usually issued by a retailer or bank, to be used as an alternative to cash for purchases within a particular store or related businesses. Gift cards are also given out by employers or organizations as rewards or gifts. They may also be distributed by retailers and marketers as part of a promotion strategy, to entice the recipient to come in or return to the store, and at times such cards are called cash cards. Gift cards are generally redeemable only for purchases at the relevant retail premises and cannot be cashed out, and in some situations may be subject to an expiry date or fees. American Express, MasterCard, and Visa offer generic gift cards which need not be redeemed at particular stores, and which are widely used for cashback marketing strategies. A feature of these cards is that they are generally anonymous and are disposed of when the stored value on a card is exhausted.

Company town

A company town is a place where practically all stores and housing are owned by the one company that is also the main employer. Company towns are often planned with a suite of amenities such as stores, houses of worship, schools, markets and recreation facilities. They are usually bigger than a model village.

Company store

A company store is a retail store selling a limited range of food, clothing and daily necessities to employees of a company. It is typical of a company town in a remote area where virtually everyone is employed by one firm, such as a coal mine. In a company town, the housing is owned by the company but there may be independent stores there or nearby.

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Disney Dollars

Disney Dollars is a form of corporate scrip previously sold by The Walt Disney Company and redeemable for goods or services at many Disney facilities.

The Battle of Matewan was a shootout in the town of Matewan in Mingo County and the Pocahontas Coalfield mining district, in southern West Virginia. It occurred on May 19, 1920 between local coal miners and the Baldwin–Felts Detective Agency. This event was a battle for miners' rights and concluded with ten dead and was a success for the Baldwin-Felts Detective agency. Whoever shot first is still unknown and is up for debate to this day.

Canadian Tire money, officially Canadian Tire 'money' or CTM, is a loyalty program operated by the Canadian retail chain Canadian Tire. It consists of coupons, issued by the company, which resemble real banknotes. It can be used as scrip in Canadian Tire stores, but is not considered a private currency. The notes are printed on paper similar to what Canadian currency was printed on when they were still paper, and were jointly produced by two of the country's long-established security printers, British American Banknote Company (BABN) and Canadian Bank Note Company (CBN). Some privately owned businesses in Canada accept CTM as payment, since the owners of many such businesses shop at Canadian Tire. In Canadian Tire stores, CTM is accepted for Canadian money at par, ie; 1 Canadian Tire Dollar = 1 Canadian Dollar.

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A coal town, also known as a coal camp or patch, is typically situated in a remote place. The company develops it and provides residences for a population of miners and related workers to reside near the coal mine.

Token coin Coin-like object used instead of coins

In numismatics, token coins or trade tokens are coin-like objects used instead of coins. The field of token coins is part of exonumia and token coins are token money. Tokens have a denomination either shown or implied by size, color or shape. "Tokens" are often made of cheaper metals: copper, pewter, aluminium, brass and tin were commonly used, while bakelite, leather, porcelain, and other less durable materials are also known.

Wooden nickel Style of token coin

In the United States, a wooden nickel is a wooden token coin, usually issued by a merchant or bank as a promotion, sometimes redeemable for a specific item such as a drink.

Howell Works

Howell Works was a bog iron-based production facility for pig iron which was established in New Jersey in the early 19th century by American engineer and philanthropist James P. Allaire. It is notable as one of the earliest American examples of a company town.

Watoga is an unincorporated community in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, United States. Watoga is located on the east bank of the Greenbrier River, 3.5 miles (5.6 km) east-northeast of Hillsboro.

History of coal miners

People have worked as coal miners for centuries, but they became increasingly important during the Industrial revolution when coal was burnt on a large scale to fuel stationary and locomotive engines and heat buildings. Owing to coal's strategic role as a primary fuel, coal miners have figured strongly in labour and political movements since that time. After the late 19th century coal miners in many countries were a frequent presence in industrial disputes with both the management and government. Coal miners' politics, while complex, have occasionally been radical, with a frequent leaning towards far-left political views. A number of far-left political movements have had the support of both coal miners themselves and their trade unions, particularly in Great Britain. In France, on the other hand, coal miners have been much more conservative. In India, Coal Miners Day is celebrated on May 4.


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  10. Edkins, p. xxviii
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