Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

SHELDON HOSPITAL RADIO TOKENS

Morning Star, November 29, 1998, pg. 24

Thinking about getting someone "something different" for Christmas? Might I suggest one of my Albion history books or cemetery tour programs? These are great conversation items and make great gifts. These are available at the Albion Chamber of Commerce.

This past summer I had the opportunity to attend the American Numismatic Association Summer Conference "school of numismatics" in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Yours truly took the class on coin photography, and brought with me items from my historical Albion numismatic collection. I am always looking for tokens issued by Albion merchants, usually in the early 20th century. These usually give the name of the businessman, and "good for 10˘ in Trade" on the back.

One very unusual item I have is a "pay radio" token that was used in the 1950s at the Sheldon Memorial Hospital in the days before "pay TV." Patients were required to place small 17 mm. diameter zinc tokens in coin-operated radios to listen to their favorite music or radio programs. The cost was one token or ten cents for one hour of entertainment.

These tokens were issued by the Dahlberg Radio Company, which produce custom-radio receivers and struck tokens for hospitals across the country that used their machines. These tokens are made of zinc and have a hole in the center. Photographically they are extremely difficult to shoot, as there is little if no contrast to get a photograph light enough to publish.

I brought my "pay radio" token with me and with the instructor manipulated the lighting and even placed a little oil on the token to help establish some contrast. After being circulated, these zinc tokens are naturally dark. Some countries issued zinc coins during World War II (particularly Nazi-occupied Belgium) and these too are dark and hard to photograph.

Experimenting with several methods, we were able to come up with a contrasting photograph of the Sheldon Memorial Hospital pay radio token, which I am illustrating here in our Historical Notebook for the first time. The obverse features the text, "Radio Token," with "Dahlberg" in script writing below the hole. Surrounding the hole are seventeen lines resembling the rays of the sun. At the bottom is a five-pointed star.

The reverse features the legend, "Sheldon Memorial Hospital Albion, Michigan." The token really doesn’t look like it does in this photo, with contrasting light and dark. It is actully quite dark, but again, we maniulated the light plus added some oil to produce an artificial effect. How many persons can remember "pay radio" at Sheldon Memorial Hospital? I wonder if an actual radio that used the tokens here still exists somewhere.


Sheldon Memorial Radio Token

More Numismatic Articles

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