Why the AA Tokens and Coins
Marking the anonymous membership of so many people around the world is a humble coin. The AA Token, unassuming to most, is a most significant keepsake for the recipient. Beginning one’s sober journey in the fellowship of Alcoholics is anonymous with a silver colored aluminum 24 hour coin is a tremendous way to mark the first day of this one day at a time way of life. The twenty-four hour token is often carried for a lifetime, standing as a silent reminder of our AA way of life.
The chip system is thought to have begun in Indianapolis in 1942. The tradition is believed to have started with Doherty S., who originally brought AA to Indianapolis. Doherty himself, in a letter to Bill, seems to indicate the practice originated in Indianapolis in 1942.
Nell Wing wrote in 1962 about the history of the chip system: “…The chip system might have begun in Indianapolis….reference was made in a letter from Doherty to the start of giving out ‘chips’ and ‘tokens.’ This was in 1942. I imagine this would be about right, because most of the early groups started in 1940 and it would take about a couple of years to think of anniversaries and marking any time of sobriety. I asked Bill about this and his memory is that the system started in Indianapolis.”
Following the 24 Hour Token is typically a series of Anodized Aluminum Tokens marking monthly milestones in Recovery. These would typically follow this pattern:
- 1 month, marked by a red anodized aluminum chip. This may also be a red plastic poker chip
- 2 months, designated by a gold anodized aluminum medallion
- 3 months, marked by an emerald green anodized coin
- 6 months, often a dark blue aluminum token or a blue plastic poker chip
- 9 months, marked by a purple aluminum chip this is usually the last aluminum token
Once a member of AA reaches the 1 Year mark of continuous sobriety, anniversary celebrations are often marked with Bronze Yearly AA Tokens. These medallions are often called “heavy metal” because of the weight of the token and the significance of having reached the yearly birthday in Alcoholics Anonymous. The yearly bronze tokens are often presented by a sponsor along with a cake and a few words about the recipient. Sometimes used to mark very significant sobriety anniversaries are the Brilliant Triplate Medallion. The Triplate AA Token is the most fancy and costly medallion.
Some common characteristics of an AA Tokens are:
- The length of time of sobriety prominently stamped in the center of the coin
- The AA Circle and Triangle motif
- The words, “To Thine Own Self be True”
- The three pillars of service, Unity, Recovery, Service
- The Serenity Prayer on the reverse side
Regardless of the length of time designated by the particular AA token, each coin carries with it the significance of that day of sobriety and for an alcoholic destined to die drunk, every day sober is a miracle worthy of praise and gratitude.
There are many other coins and here are a few of them out there. What coins do you have that are beyond the traditional sobriety length recognition? Any sponsor/sponsee tokens? Any coins focusing on a specific favorite AA or NA phrase?