In the 17th century, tokens were manufactured for a number of purposes. Occasionally they were used as currency, sometimes just for small towns to use locally, or used as small change if none existed. Tokens were also used similarly to today’s fair tickets in that they ensured the spent money would be used at a specific tavern. Tokens were used by royalty as tickets to specific ceremonies, certifying that their holders had been invited and were not interlopers.
By the time most of the tokens found at Jamestown arrived in Virginia, they were out of date and no longer in use in their original places of manufacture. It is possible that these tokens were intended to be used as currency in the settlement. However, because many of the tokens have been found discarded in early fort period features, this original intent appears to have been either unsuccessful or never implemented.
There was little need for currency with the growth of the tobacco economy as the cash crop was used to pay for labor, taxes, and slaves. Later, tobacco-based credit enabled individuals to use their crop as currency or the promise of payment for goods.