Commonwealth Journal

March 5, 2014

Rare token offers few clues to its origin

by Bill Mardis
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

On one side is: “FLAMINGO – SOMERSET KY.” On the flip side: “GOOD FOR 2 1/2 CENTS IN TRADE. The inscriptions are on a token about the size of a dime. 
Found by David Barnett, the token was about 3 or 4 inches underground in an overgrown area in the Plato-Vanhook community.
“I was using a metal detector,” said Barnett. “I found it in the yard where an old house used to stand.” 
“I’ve never heard of a place in Somerset called Flamingo,” said Gib Gosser, executive director of Downtown Somerset Development Corporation and a Somerset historian. “It sounds like a dance hall,” he laughed. 
  A wag in the newsroom pointed out the closest Flamingo to Somerset is in Las Vegas. Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino is the Strip’s original home of cool, a tropical paradise. However, it’s doubtful a 2 1/2-cent token would have traded for much entertainment on the Strip, even in the Good Ol’ Days, or before.
  Yesterday’s Somerset was not void of entertainment places, but none the Flamingo. The Shamrock was located behind where Office Depot is now; Peggy Ann Motel was on South U.S. 27 at Waitsboro; Cumberland Club was located off Monticello Street near the Old Greyhound Inn; and the Imperial House was on Ky. 1247 north of Somerset. Fuddy-dudders of yesterday weren’t party-poopers; they could dance the night away.
  Barnett said he took the token to the Pulaski County Historical Society and they too had not heard of a place called Flamingo in Pulaski County. The historical society suggested Barnett bring the token to the newspaper.
  The token is obviously old, very old. It has been a long time since 2 1/2 cents in trade would be enough to attract one to any type of business. That being said, old-timers can remember “a penny’s worth of candy;” an “all-day sucker” for a penny;  and a “penny postcard,” phrases all coined during a bygone era when a penny was worth a penny.
  Barnett said the token was dull, coated by age, when he dug it out of the ground. He cleaned and shined the token, finding it in mint condition.
  For the past 12 years Barnett was a backhoe operator for D.W. Wilburn, Lexington. He was involved in excavations for the Pulaski County Court of Justice and the new Pulaski County Public Library, both projects built by Wilburn, a native of Pulaski County.
  “I was born in Rockcastle County,” said Barnett. “I live now in Pulaski County near the Rockcastle County line.”
  The Plato-Vanhook community where Barnett currently lives is in northeastern Pulaski County. The community is served by the Plato-Vanhook Road that extends east off Ky. 461 just south of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. Upper Line Creek divides Plato and Vanhook, if you choose to separate the pastoral places.
  “I didn’t find any other coins or tokens at the place where I found the Flamingo token,” said Barnett.
  Someone suggested the Flamingo token might have been issued by a coal camp company store. However, based on Dodrill's 10,000 Coal Company Stores, no coal camps in Pulaski County, dating back to 1903, bore the name of Flamingo.
  We’ll give a penny for your thoughts. If you know the origin of the 2 1/2-cent token, call 451-4919. If no answer, leave a message.