Tokens are known for traders in wholesale markets across the UK. They were usually used in connection with deposits paid for returnable packages. During the nineteenth century the great majority of fruit and vegetables were received from farms in baskets (click here for a picture of local basket makers), sacks or wooden boxes. To ensure these were returned a deposit was charged and tokens issued to the buyer for an equivalent value. When the containers were returned with the token the money was refunded. The use of tokens was phased out in the 1950s and 1960s. Some markets (for example Billingsgate) also used tokens to record how many loads a porter had carried. There were two markets in Tower Hamlets that used tokens: Columbia and Spitalfields. The tokens themselves were in use from about 1850 to 1960 and could be made of brass, copper, zinc or cupronickel. Denominations ranged from 2d to £10. During the nineteenth century 6d and one shilling tokens predominated but gradually, higher denominations were introduced. London manufacturers predominate with the firm of R. Neal and its successors being by far the most prolific.
For details of the markets and their tokens please click on the market name