Wednesday, 7 September 2022

British Armed Forces NAAFI tokens

MoDiP has three different examples of plastics NAAFI tokens in the collection. With reference to the image below, on the left is a circular ½ d token, in the centre an octagonal ½ franc token and on the right, a circular green coloured token valid in NAAFI Egypt only.

MoDiP’s three NAAFI tokens.
Image credit: Katherine Pell

Established in 1920, the NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes) was an amalgamation of earlier organisations that had essentially been set up to feed the British Armed Forces. Administering all three services, by 1944 it was supporting military deployment through the provision of canteens, bars and shops, as well as controlling entertainment (ENSA) and leisure activities. Metal, paper and subsequently plastics tokens were all utilised, aiding the NAAFI by assisting with the organisation of supplies, controlling spending, preventing issues with local currency exchange, and avoiding the need to transport and deliver large amounts of heavy coinage.

AIBDC : 009324
Image credit: Katherine Pell

MoDiP’s first two tokens (refer images above and below) are made of the same material, although we are not exactly sure what that is! I have seen examples of these tokens variously described as: compressed paper, plastic, laminated plastic, wood, cardboard, bakelite, fibre and formica. Our guess is that it is a composite comprising a synthetic resin (possibly phenolic) bonded to either paper or fabric, hence the visible texture. The tokens are lightweight but strong and rigid, durable and water resistant. We are hoping to have them tested using FTIR (Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy) soon, through which we hope to get a more definitive answer.

AIBDC : 009325
Image credit: Katherine Pell

We have dated the ½ d token to 1939-1945 but can be more specific for the ½ franc token based on information taken from ‘Over to You’, the official news sheet of the 5th Battalion Coldstream Guards (refer below). Edward Hallett, from his blog Tales from the Supply Depot, has published an excerpt dated 10th July 1944, that reports the introduction of the octagonal token as follows:

Excerpt from ‘Over to You’ news sheet, 10th July 1944.
Image credit:

A full transcript of the entire daily news sheet can be found here.

AIBDC : 009322
Image credit: Katherine Pell

With regard the NAAFI Egypt token (refer image above), I found the following contribution written by P.R. Bertram entitled NAAFI Numismatics, published in ‘The Quarterly Circular’ of the Egypt Study Circle (September Quarter 1993, Volume XV, No. 3).

Excerpt from ‘The Quarterly Circular’, September 1993.
Image credit:  

From this article we can state the manufacturer as British Artid Plastics Ltd with a date of circa 1951-1964. We believe this token was injection moulded in polystyrene (PS) but, again, FTIR will hopefully confirm this.
We also have many other types of plastics tokens in the museum, including a variety of Co-operative Society tokens (mainly for bread and milk), transport tokens and another favourite of mine, the British Restaurant tokens. All of these objects can be viewed in the museum on request.

Katherine Pell
Collections Officer


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