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Subway Tokens - An Iconic Symbol of NYC's Past

Pamela Grimes

Posted on March 20 2023

I have always loved the nostalgic look of the iconic NYC subway token, particularly the ones with the “Y” cut out. Since it is often difficult to shut down the creative side of my brain, I began to delve into the idea of displaying a vintage brass token along with a subway map.



I soon discovered this 1970s era map and was able to obtain a scanned digital version. In the subway's infancy, it only cost 5 cents to get on a train and so passengers would just insert a nickel. But when the fare was raised to 15 cents,  the NYC Transit Authority encountered a problem which led them to the creation of the subway token.

Six different token designs were used, ranging in years from 1953 to the last token in 2003 (see below). Each is unique -- several were used for only a couple of years and others over a decade. In 2003, subway tokens were replaced with the MetroCard. Artists and designers have continued to keep this era alive by incorporating NYC subway tokens into their art and jewelry.



Because the map is so large and we wanted to highlight each borough, our next step was to creatively zoom in on an area so we could offer four separate maps: Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. A number of customers have even asked us to highlight specific stops of the routes they traveled many years ago (so far, our best seller has been The Bronx!)

Not only can customers select a specific brass token and borough, but also a frame style and mat color in order to create meaningful custom wall art - one that brings back fond, yet distant memories and pays tribute to NYC's past!



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