Until the late 1950's, when changes in federal and state laws, along with changing economic realities doomed the practice, many companies issued tokens, or scrip, for use by their employees in company run stores. This was especially widespread in the coal fields of Appalachia, where many miners also lived in company owned towns. In these company towns or "coal camps," the only store in town was usually owned or run on behalf of the coal company.
In theory, scrip was an advance against unearned wages and usable only by the employee to whom it was issued. In practice, many miners were never able to fully retire their debt to the company store and scrip became the unofficial currency of the community.
Paper scrip was first used by the Coal Companies. Metal scrip was issued after a determination was made that the paper scrip was not durable. Many companies had an identification punch in the scrip to help the store clerk identify it as their own. Each company had their own scrip and accepted no other.
Company scrip was often accepted at local schools for lunches, theaters, churches and saloons. Other local merchants would also accept the scrip, but taking a 20% discount.
The best working areas in the mines were often given to the miner drawing the most scrip against his wages. Refusing to draw scrip as pay for working in the mines often meant early discharge.
Scrip pamphlet from the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine