New York City Subway Tokens

From nycsubway.org

"Small Y" Token
"Small Y" Token
  • 1953-1966: 15 cents
  • 1966-1970: 20 cents

The small "Y" token had a total mintage of 48 million, including a rare variant of this type with the "Y" not cut out. This token was used for only a few months in 1953.

"Large Y" Token
"Large Y" Token
  • 1970-1972: 30 cents
  • 1972-1975: 35 cents
  • 1975-1980: 50 cents

Mintage 50 million. The large Y cutout comes in two varieties, one with larger lettering than the other. The large letter variety is slightly scarcer than the smaller letter variety. To tell the difference: The large letter variety looks like the lettering on the solid brass NYC token. On "NYC" the legs of the N are not deeply cut and there are no hooks on the C. The small letter type looks similar to the preceding small-Y variety, with both deeper cuts and hooks.

"Diamond Jubilee" Token
"Diamond Jubilee" Token
  • 1979-1980: 50 cents

Issued to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the subway in 1979. Mintage 5.8 million, with some rare errors without the hole punched.

"Solid Brass NYC" Token
"Solid Brass NYC" Token
  • 1980-1981: 60 cents
  • 1981-12/31/1983: 75 cents
  • 1/1/1984-12/31/1985: 90 cents

Mintage 60 million.

"Bullseye" Tokens (top); Archer Ave. variant (bottom left); SJD variant (bottom right)
"Bullseye" Token
  • 1/1/1986-1990: $1.00
  • 1990-1992: $1.15
  • 1992-11/12/1995: $1.25

There are three variations of the "Bullseye" tokens. The first is the "SJD" token, the first of the "Bullseye" series. The letters "SJD" can be found on then "GOOD FOR ONE FARE" side between the "D" in GOOD and the "F" in FOR (it is reported that "SJD" are the initials of one Sylvester J. Dobosz, who was in charge of the money room). The second is the Archer Avenue Extension commemorative token, issued in December 1988 to celebrate the opening of the Archer Avenue Extension in Queens. Instead of "GOOD FOR ONE FARE" it says "ARCHER AV EXTENSION 12-88". The third is the "plain Bullseye" which lacks the "SJD" on the token. Total mintage of all varieties 90 million; 100,000 were of the Archer Avenue variety.

"Five Boroughs Pentagram" Token
"Five Boroughs" Pentagram Token
  • 11/13/1995-4/13/2003: $1.50

This token was newly minted in 1991 for the fare increase to $1.25, but not used at that time. Instead they were held until the $1.50 fare increase in 1995. 60 million of these new tokens were minted. The token was finally phased out in favor of the Metrocard system, just after midnight on April 13, 2003.

Token Holders

The use of tokens began with the small Y token in 1953. Subway riders began to complain about tokens getting lost in their pockets and purses, or getting tokens confused with other coins. The solution was a token holder. Here's one design similar to a change maker that could held 9 tokens in 3 spring loaded tubes. Thus, when a rider purchased a 10 pack of tokens, the rider would use the first token and the rest would go into the token holder.

1950s token holder. From the collection of, and photo by Sanford Gardner.

Minting Errors

Reader Frank D'Alessandro sent this interesting photo of tokens with minting errors that he has in his collection.

Page Credits

Compiled by Jason R. DeCesare, Richard Weil, and David Pirmann. Photo of minting errors by Frank D'Alessandro.

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