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The Moon Money Tokens

Research by Howard C. Weinberger

 

Howard C. Weinberger is considered one of the founding fathers of Space Collecting, with a specialization in coins and medallions. He is the one who uncovered the full background of the Robbins Medallions and authored two books about them, providing all the historical data, including which were flown. He also published the research on the Fliteline Medals as well as the Apollo 13 and Apollo 14 Franklin Mint Medals.

His influence is far reaching as he was also the one to get Numismatic Guaranty Corp (NGC) to agree to certify the Robbins Medallions, followed by the Fliteline Medallions, the Apollo 13 and Apollo 14 Franklin Medallions and then all the medals related to Space.

Weinberger is known to have a keen eye for what would become popular among collectors. He was the first to assemble a collection of the gold Robbins Medallions and paid large sums to acquire them when people thought he was crazy.

Over the years his expertise has been sought out by collectors, dealers, auction houses and journalists. After many years, parts of his collections have come to market for collectors to enjoy. Many of the finest Medallions that have surfaced for sale can be identified as from his collection by the certification letter being addressed to him from an astronaut.




Something New

Another group of Space tokens that Weinberger has researched are a series of fun Space Tokens, called "Moon Money ", that were sold in the heyday of the Apollo program. The penny size Moon Money tokens feature cartoon fantasy images and slogans and have become popular with collectors, even though their exact origins had not been certain. They were just fun.

Moon Money - Apollo 15 card
Moon Money - Apollo 11 card

Following in the footsteps of advertising premiums that began in the 1930s, these fun prizes helped attract and keep the attention of America's youth.

Various versions of the tokens have popped up at flea markets, garage sales and eBay over the years. They were most often touted as vintage gumball prizes or even as modern fantasy pieces because no one knew for certain.

It has been determined that they were issued within multiple products, so being issued as a gumball prize is possible although no evidence has yet been found to confirm that.

Weinberger's research finds that these "Moon Money" tokens were sold on a store card at dime stores, drug stores and other variety shops for .50 and .75 cents each, a pricey sum circa 1970 and certainly a greater value than a gumball prize.

Moon Money - Apollo 15 cover

One Apollo 15 Moon Buggy Penny's was also discovered as part of a Rocket Mail Launch Cover from 1971, so these Moon Money tokens were used in more than one promotion.

There are four variations of the "Moon Money" token. Only recently, a number of these have come to collector's attention when they began to emerge from the now infamous (Neil) Armstrong Family Collection, which were certified by NGC's affiliate CAG. Even then, the background of these tokens had been mostly unknown to collectors, however, collectors eagerly gobbled these up and for impressive prices.




Identification

The copper, silver and brass tokens have surfaced in 4 variations. Three of the four are titled as MOON MONEY and the fourth as SWISS CHEESE NICKEL. The 4 variations are as follows:


Moon Money - Green Cheese Penny

Green Cheese Penny

The obverse features a cow jumping over the moon and states "Green Cheese Penny", while the reverse states "Moon Money" with the image of an accurately detailed Lunar Module.

Most are found in copper and are the size of a penny (¾" / 20mm). A very few have been found in silver, struck on a thicker planchet.


Moon Money - Gremlin Dime

Gremlin Dime

The obverse features a chaotic scene of the exploding Apollo spacecraft and a Gremlin and states "Gremlin Dime", while the reverse states "Moon Money" and "Odyssey Aquarius" with a cartoonish image of the Apollo 13 mission logo. The token is an Apollo 13 token. A gremlin is a folkloric mischievous creature that causes malfunctions in aircraft or other machinery, which obviously applies to the explosion and near fatality of the Apollo 13 spacecrafts. All discovered to date are copper and are the size of a penny (¾" / 20mm).


Moon Money - Moon Buggy Penny

Moon Buggy Penny

The obverse features a cartoonish image of the lunar rover driven by a cow with the lunar module in the distance and states "Moon Buggy Penny", while the reverse states "Moon Money" and an image of the Apollo 11 mission logo.

This token is considered the most confusing because it is an Apollo 15 token, but instead of featuring the Apollo 15 mission logo it displays the Apollo 11 mission logo. Understanding that this was just a child's amusement piece we can understand that the accuracy of the images was not critically important.

Apollo 15 was the first mission to carry and use the lunar rover, which is what this token commemorates. We can be sure that this is an Apollo 15 token because an original unopened store card (see image in introduction section above) has been discovered as evidence.

All discovered to date are copper and are the size of a penny (¾" / 20mm). It should also be noted that a couple of error struck examples of this token have been discovered. These were double struck, which widened and flattened the finished token.


Moon Money - Swiss Cheese Nickel

Swiss Cheese Nickel

The obverse features a realistic face of Armstrong within a spacesuit and states "All American Boy Neil A. Armstrong", while the reverse states "Swiss Cheese Nickel" and "Man's first footprint on the Moon" with an image of a footprint on the lunar surface.

Most are found in brass and are on a smaller planchet. A very few have been found in silver and look to be proof-like strikes but struck on a thicker planchet.





Wait! There's More.

The four Moon Money tokens discussed thus far are a set and were created by the same company. However, with a broader focus on researching Moon Money in general, three other unrelated tokens have also come to light, and Weinberger has decided to include them as part of the Moon Money genre.


Moon Money - 1 Astron

1 Astron

There are two denominations of the Astron Moon Money tokens. The 1 Astron token was struck in aluminum (approx 33mm across). These octagon shaped tokens were given out at the Winnipeg Red River Exhibition in 1961 by the Regency Coin & Stamp Co. The obverse states "Good for 1 Astron" and "Redeemable for 1 Astron at any store or bank on the Moon until 12-31-1969", which ironically coincided with President Kennedy's call to land a man on the Moon by the end of the decade during his speech in September 1962. These are Canadian and very few have come to market thus far.


Moon Money - 2 Astron

2 Astron

The 2 Astron token was struck in brass. These octagon shaped tokens were given out at the Winnipeg Red River Exhibition in 1961 by the Regency Coin & Stamp Co. The obverse states "Good for 2 Astrons" and "Redeemable for 2 Astrons at any store or bank on the Moon until 12-31-1969", which ironically coincided with President Kennedy's call to land a man on the Moon by the end of the decade during his speech in September 1962. These are Canadian and very few have come to market thus far. The 2 Astron token is scarcer than the 1 Astron token.


Moon Money

Moon Money

This large (39mm) aluminum token was issued by Carondelet Savings & Loan in St. Louis in 1969. The obverse states "MOON MONEY" and "Redeem For $1,500 Insured Account at Moon Branch Office", and relief image of the Moon with a sign staked on the lunar surface showing Carondelet's logo and "Moon Office".





Conclusion

Weinberger had collected multiples of the various versions of these tokens over time and most of his have been certified by NGC and pedigreed to the H. Weinberger Collection. If history is any judge, the Space genre can expect these fun tokens to become ever more popular with collectors now that their background is known.


Annex A: Significant examples of Moon Money Tokens sold at auction or identified in private or museum collections

TypeProvenanceSold viaSale DateLot no.PriceReference / Notes
2 Green Cheese Penny (silver)Armstrong familyHeritageNov 1 201852386$2,750CAG PF67UC & CAG PF69UC ; Auction listing 
Green Cheese Penny (silver)Armstrong familyHeritageMay 9 201950545$325CAG PF69 ; Auction listing 
4 Swiss Cheese Nickels (copper)Armstrong familyHeritageMay 10 201951020$750Part of loose lot ; Auction listing 
Green Cheese Penny (copper)Armstrong familyHeritageNov 14 201950141$1,125CAG MS68RD ; Auction listing 
Green Cheese Penny (copper)Armstrong familyHeritageNov 15 201950701$1,063CAG MS67RD ; Auction listing 
Gremlin Dime (copper)Armstrong familyHeritageNov 15 201950712$688CAG MS67RD ; Auction listing 

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