Aternative Name: Token
Issued: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Medal, Cole's Book Arcade, Federation of the World, Reading & Thinking, circa 1885. This gilt medal is one of a series of medals offering maxims and proverbs issued by E.W. Cole at his Book Arcade. He called the medals 'little missionaries for the spread of educative knowledge' (Dean, 1988, p.36).
According to Sydney Endacott, an employee of Cole, customers were charged three pence for these medals (which he prefers to call tokens) which, when the Arcade was particularly busy, gave them admission to the second-hand books gallery where the orchestra played. Each medal could be exchanged for thee pence worth of goods, but most were kept. The pierced ones were sometimes worn as pendants or on pocket watch chains. The medals served as perpetual advertisements of the Arcade (Victorian Historical Magazine, February 1962). George Dean suggests that the medals were also given in change at Christmas time, and could be used to operate amusement machines (presumably including the symphonion and hens, although these only required one penny to operate).
Cole had his first medal stuck in 1879 and his last one about 1903. The medals were variously gilded, silvered or bronzed, replicating the coinage then circulating, or plated with nickel or white metal. The medal blanks were usually made of copper or brass, but some might have been bronze; aluminium was also sometimes used. In all, perhaps 300,000 medals were struck, in 97 types. Only 50 types are known to have circulated (George Dean, 1988, A Handbook on E.W. Cole: His Book Arcade, Tokens and Medals).
A gilt bronze medal (31 mm diameter) offering a thought provoking maxim related to world federation, holed.
Between two curved palm fronds and above a rainbow, READING AND THINKING BRING WISDOM; below rainbow, FEDERATION OF THE / WORLD MEDALS / ISSUED / BY E.W. COLES / BOOK ARCADE MELBOURNE
THE / HAPPINESS OF / MANKIND, THE REAL / SALVATION OF THE WORLD / MUST COME ABOUT BY / EVERY PERSON IN EXISTENCE / BEING TAUGHT TO / READ / AND INDUCED TO / THINK
Cole's Book Arcade opened in the Bourke Street Mall in 1883, after earlier operating from other sites. It was a shop like no other, crammed with new and second-hand books and other wares, but with the atmosphere of a circus. Cole enticed customers of all ages with a menagerie and fernery, a band, a clockwork symphonion and other mechanical delights. Readers could sit in comfortable chairs, encouraged by a sign: 'Read for as Long as You Like - Nobody Asked to Buy'. The Arcade's proprietor, Edward William Cole, was optimist and idealist, believing passionately in the power of education and envisaged a world without borders, expounding his views in pamphlets and books. Cole died in 1918, still dreaming of a better future. Cole's Book Arcade, one of the wonders of 'marvellous Melbourne', closed in 1929.
Transfer from National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), 15 Mar 1976
circa 1885 AD
Obverse: READING ND THINKING BRINGS WISDOM FEDERATION OF THE WORLD MEDALS ISSUED BY E.W. COLES BOOK ARCADE MELBOURNE Reverse: THE HAPPINESS OF MANKIND, THE REAL SALVATION OF THE WORLD MUST COME ABOUT BY EVERY PERSON IN EXISTENCE BEING TAUGHT TO READ AND INDUCED TO THINK
Type of item
31 mm (Outside Diameter), 10.65 g (Weight)
Chitty 67= Dean 83
[Book] Dean, George D. 1988. A Handbook on E.W. Cole, His Book Arcade, Tokens & Medals.
[Book] Turnley, Cole. 1974. Cole of the Book Arcade: a Biography of E.W. Cole.
[Article] 1973. A Tribute to E.W. Cole. Australian Numismatist. 27 (10): 5-10.