Artifact of the Month: North Carolina Prison Dept. tokens

The Artifact of the Month for November comes from the North Carolina Prison Department. Several patrons donated a total of ten Prison Department tokens to the NCC Gallery. Supposedly used between 1930 and 1970, the tokens were provided to prisoners in the North Carolina state prison system as canteen money for the purchase of cigarettes, magazines, toiletries, and other personal items from prison shops and commissaries. Donors believe the officially sanctioned form of currency in the state’s prisons established financial equity amongst the inmates because the amount of individual wealth in “the real world” was negated. The tokens also helped prevent inmates from bribing guards to obtain items unavailable in the prisons.

A current employee of the North Carolina Division of Prisons described the current state institutions as “a cashless society.” Nevertheless, popular culture has consistently maintained that the cigarette serves as a form of currency within American correctional institutes, especially as state legislatures progressively ban them in prisons. Recent articles claim that objects ranging from honey buns and cans of mackerel to the use of contraband cellphones possess the most influence for bartering.

The ten tokens ranging in denominations worth 1¢ to $1.00 highlight one of the NCC Gallery’s collection strengths: numismatics. The Gallery holds a large assortment of bank notes, coins, tokens, and scrip. Some of the collection has been digitized for the Historic Moneys of North Carolina digital exhibit.

Charlotte slow to warm to Rolling Stones

On this day in 1965: The Rolling Stones make their first appearance in Charlotte, drawing less than a half-full house at the original Coliseum (and failing to rate a review in the Observer).

Reports the Charlotte News: “What it was wasn’t music, but it was harmless. Promoter Jim Crockett had hired 40 policemen to hold back the mob, but there wasn’t any mob. [Mick] Jagger looks like a teenage miss who’s just washed her hair and can’t find her curlers. His straggly brown locks swishing around his shoulders, Jagger wrestles with the microphone, does some fancy strutting and spinning and sings.”

Pictured: Media pass for the Rolling Stones’ much better attended 1997 concert, the first in Charlotte’s new NFL stadium. The show sold out 54,436 tickets and grossed a reported $3,126,945.

Unfortunately for the Carolina Panthers, the stage set-up required resodding 25 yards at one end of the field. Heavy rains made the next game an embarrassing mudfest, including no fewer than nine fumbles.