~ the ~ Catalog of
Fiscal Ephemera & Exonumia
from Transit Companies
of the City of New York
Tickets, Tokens, Transfers & Passes: ca. 1850's up to the MetroCard
with price guide!
featuring the collections of George S. Cuhaj and Philip M. Goldstein
Unique visitors since July 25, 2021:
Fare Tickets & Employee Passes
Half Fare Tickets
including errors & counterfeits
Half Fare Tickets
Senior Citizens & Handicapped
Continuing Ride Tickets & Transfers
Subways & Elevateds
Half Fare, Reduced Fare & Free
Special Issue Tickets & Passes
JFK Express; Culture; Shoppers,
Nostalgia Trains; Block and General Order Tickets, and more
Continuing Ride Tickets & Transfers
Bus Routes including Express Routes
Staten Island Rapid Transit
Tickets & Passes
Hudson and Manhattan Railroad &
Port Authority Trans Hudson
Tokens, Tickets & Passes
The history of public transportation in the City of New York has been documented in many books, government reports and newspaper articles but very little has been published about the many fiscal issues – tickets and transfers – sold or issued to passengers. Many of know about the original five cent fare and then the fifteen-cent tokens but unless one delved into collectibles does one remember today the numerous issues of tickets and transfers used in the past 175 years.
This website is informally dedicated to the efforts of the late Joseph D. Korman. In his groundbreaking website "The JoeKorNer" he addressed the most basic of NYC transit ephemera. It is still up, take a look at it (but not right now).
This website is offered as a collaboration between George Cuhaj and Philip Goldstein. We know it is not complete but consider it a starting point for documenting fiscal issues of the land transportation services offered in NYC. It is a companion website to Goldstein’s other "New York centric" transportation related websites.It is emphasized that this catalog will never be truly "finished" or "complete". There will always be one more thing we haven't seen. Check back frequently. If you wish to offer an item for inclusion, you are invited to email us using the contact information at the end of this introduction. Page revision dates are listed to the right of the page link in the index above. It is our intention, to have this catalog become a usable reference and price guide for the active collector (more about this in another chapter below.)
In using this catalog, the following should kept in mind:
website catalog, there three different eras of use regarding
transit operations in the City of New York:
|pre-First Unification||Private Companies||1830's through 1940|
|First Unification||Board of Transportation - The New York City Transit System||1940 through 1953|
|Second Unification||New York City Transit Authority||1953 to the present|
NOTE: This website currently stops at the point in time in which the MetroCard system replaced most of these printed fiscal issues.
If you have a fiscal item that you do not see, and own; by all means, please feel welcome to share it for inclusion. Your submission will be watermarked with your name.
Also, please feel free to contact me regarding errors, broken links, missing images, corrections, or for any other reason at:
- Interborough Rapid Transit - which first opened in 1904.
- Brooklyn Manhattan Transit - which was reorganized from the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Co. in 1923
- Independent Subway - opened in 1932 and City Owned.
"Before the introduction of free bus transfers system-wide in 1994
within the NYCTA / MaBSTOA family of routes in 1981, any bus route that
was instituted or extended after the 1953 creation of the New York City
Transit Authority; offered no free transfers on that portion of the
Double fares were required until September 1975, when Add-A-Rides provided some temporary relief to the double fare by allowing a second fare for the price of a half fare, or 25 cents.
Although 1981 was the pivotal year in rationalizing the transfer policy, it was not until 1993 that routes operated by private companies allowed free transfers between companies and to and from NYCTA / MaBSTOA routes. Even then, severe restrictions were placed on the new transfers offered.
Transfers were not permitted with intersecting routes at a terminus or within ¾ mile of a terminus. Two bus trips for one fare, everywhere, were not allowed until MetroCard Gold was introduced in 1997 when paper transfers listing routes where transfers were permitted were replaced with MetroCard transfers to the bus and subway. This finally ended the irrational bus transfer system, in place since before 1940."
Allan Rosen, "What's a fair fare? Part 1 of 3 - the History of Free Transfers"
published on Bklyner - August 13, 2012
Pricing for items listed in this catalog are based on prices paid for examples acquired for our collections (adjusted for inflation where necessary); as well as:
- prices realized (not listing / asking prices) on eBay via completed / sold listings search,
- personal records compiled from prices realized from conventional numismatic auction listings and over the past few decades.
sale price is determined by three factors: Condition, demand and
rarity. If one of those three legs is missing from the milking stool,
things do not sit well.
Rarity takes into account not only the number made, but the number of similar items that have survived.
Demand exists when fifteen people are in search of seven items; eight people will be disappointed. They will then perhaps be eager to pay higher at the next auction appearance, or drop out of the collecting pool altogether and move on to something else.
Condition comes into effect when numerous like items are available thus discretion can be made to how well preserved it is. On a truly rare item, condition has a lot less consideration.
Many items in this catalog are known in less than five specimens, especially the omnibus tokens and stage tickets. However, when only two or three people are interested in them and there are ten; well then, there is no demand. If a particular item is nice and "sexy" and twenty exist but forty people want it, then the demand is disproportionate to the availability, and the price rises until the demand fades.
When an old
time collection or horde becomes available, many items come to the
market at once; which
have formerly been unavailable and thus create interest and buying
opportunities. But when plentiful, the price should go DOWN.
To bring this into focus:
But not all items from a specific railroad may be rare. Rarity is based on whether or not the issues were for general or special fares, every day circulation or a special occasion.
Other factors considered, are the longevity and scope of the operation; for example:
In regard to items listed on this website, the following terms are used and their explanation:
examples are known; by variety, date and quantity; pretty much
full time for sale individually on eBay, Etsy, Mercari, and on
dealer / private sales lists.
not frequently seen, but can appear for sale several times a year on eBay, Etsy, Mercari, et al.
however: tokens in this category may be found on private sales lists of token specialists & dealers.
|scarce / rare:|| very
infrequently seen, purchasing opportunities extremely limited to
perhaps once or twice a year; some competition to be expected.
|extremely rare:||minimal examples known, years before an example appears for sale; much demand; intense competition to be expected.|
With rarity now being explained, we are witness to a disturbing trend in regards to the New York City transit collectibles market in particular:
Overly inflated and unrealistic pricing.
To be absolutely clear, I am not talking about truly rare and old items that are hardly or never seen. I am referring to the most common of transit ephemera:
Continuing Ride tickets, Streetcar Line and Bus Route transfers, Sunday Half Fare Tickets
In other words, common items. Common items that were printed in many varieties and quantities in the millions. These following items as well as others and their varieties; were very widely circulated and used daily:
These tickets and transfers, were bulk printed for daily use. Unused tickets and transfers at the end of the day, went into recycling bins by the bushel load. Transit buffs and employees foreseeing a future collectability, saved or recovered them. These items used to sell regularly for 25 to 50 cents a piece back in the early 2000's on eBay. Entire books of transfers could be had for a paltry few dollars.
Over the last decade, I am now seeing multiple sellers offering many varieties of these tickets and transfers; some are even listed in group lots for prices way, way out of touch for their actual value.
We now bear witness to single transfers attempting to be sold at $10, $11 dollars or MORE. For a single paper transfer! And when you see consecutive serial numbers in multiple lots, you know the seller is disassembling a booklet of 25. And whole books? Whole books of 25 transfers are now being listed for $50, $60, even $99...
Even accounting for inflation, what was 50¢ in 2000 should currently be selling for 78¢ in 2021 - adjusted for cumulative rate of inflation (56.3%). Individual tickets and transfers that sold for 50¢ each, therefore a booklet of twenty-five could be bought for $6.25.
Postage was 34¢ in 2000, and is now 55¢. eBay insertion fees, while they have risen, have not risen to account for this drastic increase. Insertion fees are currently between 30¢ and 05¢ based on whether its a beginner or an anchor listing, and whether it is an auction style listing or fixed price. If one decides to sell through an electronic store front on eBay, the yearly "rent" is between $7.95 year and $299.00 per year, billed monthly.
And so, a 50¢ cent transfer adjusted for inflation, should now be 78¢. Postage is 55¢. Speaking of which is another matter entirely - I do not need expedited shipping / priority mail and tracking on a $1.00 item in plentiful supply. If it gets lost? I buy another and not hold the seller responsible; and the eBay insertion fee is 30¢.
Lets us even assume the seller has purchased a basic e-store and its cost is part of the overhead. That's another 67¢ per month. That comes to $2.30 for a simple individual transfer. Even tacking on a 30% mark up for the 7 cent envelope, the 2 cents of printer ink; still brings the ultimate total to only $2.99.
Oh and before someone thinks about the "supposed" time and expense in going to the post office - another nice try, but I know the USPS picks up outgoing shipments from the seller as part of the integrated labeling, postage and shipping package offered by eBay:
Schedule a Package Pickup:
Prepare your package, complete with postage, then request a pickup online. Your carrier will pick it up at no charge.
Bottom line? Regardless of the format being sold under, these common items should still be for sale around $2.00 to $3.00 each. Not $6.99. Not $9.99, Not $19.99 or $24.99, or higher.
If anything, these issues are more prolific now than they were as more people found eBay and are selling their items. There are more choices of dates and routes on the tickets and transfers than ever before.
Some of these sellers do not even hide the fact they have dozens if not hundreds of books; as I have seen in stated in their description "I have totes full of these transfers in the attic for years". Some images with auctions show a table or box full of transfer books.
These booklets are unissued remainders. Extras, that were not issued or used. Leftovers.
Please understand even further; I am not discussing transfers issued on historical or notable dates (transit related or otherwise), such as the Last Day of Operation of the Third Avenue or Myrtle Avenue Elevated, President Kennedy's assassination, or other significant dates. I am referring to just plain and simple uneventful and unhistorical dates.
But for something as mundane, plentiful and mass produced as NYCTA continued ride tickets and transfers? Remember supply and demand? Well there is plenty of supply, and little demand. Obviously, because there plenty of them for sale!
This overinflated pricing is utter madness. I as a collector, am by no means afraid to spend my money on something rare and unique or in high demand to add to my collection. But to pay $5.00 or more for 75 cent item? $50.00 for a book of transfers worth $18.75? I may have been born at night, but not last night.
If I have to spend 60 minutes haggling repeatedly with a seller to get their items down from an inflated price, as opposed to one with a reasonable price; who do you think I am going to patronize?
This overpricing issue is in no way restricted to the NYC transit ephemera market and is prevalent in quite a few of collectible areas. Railroad lanterns is another problematic area: very common New York Central Railroad lanterns are listed for hundreds of dollars. Book value? $40 - $45.. But one rare railroad lantern for a small 1800's short line sells for a couple of hundred or a thousand dollars, and everyone who is selling a railroad lantern thinks their is worth that too.
Fortunately for that collecting venue, there are published catalog and references with price guides, as well as a very reputable Facebook Group. Same go for other collecting interests. In most cases, once a seller is provided with a screenshot or scan of the particular lantern in the catalog with associated price, their price usually gets adjusted accordingly. And more than one buyer has expressed their frustration after a purchase and upon sharing the item in the group, and then comes to be told they significantly overpaid for that lantern.
As a responsible seller or buyer, you really need to check the completed and sold auction pricing section.
(Not, not, not)
Another ongoing issue is the overuse of the word "RARE!". "Rare" in terms of collectability means something that is not seen often and of extremely limited availability. Not something that is offered for sale on a regular basis and in multitudes. Rare means several or many collectors all vying to purchase the same item, because there is only one or maybe two available irregularly. Not a seller listing five or six, or ten or twenty of them with the word "RARE" in your title, over and over again with each lot.
Sometimes I think the only thing rare in these auctions and buy-it-now offerings; is the sellers common sense, their morality and the steak they wish they were eating. Calling something rare when it is not, is highly misleading and adversely affects the pricing structure of the market as a whole.
Most of us watch or have watched; the plethora of reality TV shows that are broadcast featuring pickers and pawnshops. The running joke is the low ball offers made by prospective buyers, and in sharp contrast; the overzealous and overestimated values of the owner. eBay is no different, only in this case, we have done the math from empirical sales evidence and history; and based the price guide on realistic values.
See, the object in a marketplace is to sell and make money - not list your extras for dubious, overinflated prices in an attempt to "place a value your collection".
This speculation of the New York transit ephemera collectibles must stop. It is a matter of respect to the hobby as a whole, not to mention being an honorable way to conduct business.
Now perhaps I am naïve; but in my economics class in school (which I passed), if someone is in the business of selling things, and something or a lot of things goes unsold for long period of time, you lower your prices. Not raise them to make people think that little common piece of paper is worth a lot more than it really is.
And it certainly should not be the collector's burden to pay more, because you as the seller overestimated the items worth or collectability, and overpaid for them in the first place.
Questionable Business Practices
It should be noted that for this chapter, these are the observations and experiences of one author (PMG) and only that author bears the responsibility of the following.
There is one person in particular on eBay in the field of New York collectibles, including the transit area that is the worst of the worst.
First and foremost:
This person is selling under two different names, of which I have personally and undeniably confirmed that the second of the sellers is working in direct partnership for the first person, supposedly "on consignment" - selling the same items as the first (serial / ticket numbers match), but for a few dollars less. But they are working the same stock of items owned by the first party.
This first person; not only has a grossly overestimated value of the items being sold; but is clearly intending to (and has) distort the market with these prices. So much so, other regular sellers have raised there prices - on the same exact items. And these too, go unsold. I know what so of you may be thinking - if they don't sell, what is the harm?
The harm is, and remains; other people come on eBay to sell their items, and look at asking prices and price theirs accordingly. Unfortunately, very few sellers (especially new sellers); take the time to research the completed and sold auction listings for actual prices realized (sold).
This is where checking those options in eBay advanced search comes in very handy; as does a Worthpoint subscription. Then, there is always the option of seeking out the advice of other collectors, which can be done with ease with the prevalence of collector forums, and now with Facebook groups.
Again, and I cannot emphasize this strongly enough: I am not talking about the truly rare items. I as a collector, understand and can live with that. If an item sells with multiple bidders, then there is demand and there in an under bidder to show there is interest in that item at the closing price.
Almost all items listed have a "best offer" option, but when you make a reasonable offer - it is almost always immediately rejected. A few days later, this seller on occasion makes a "50% off" counter offer.
Wait a second. If someone is listing an item at $60 (that is normally valued at say $10), rejects your offer of $15; and then counteroffers it to you for $30? It is still drastically overpriced! And still $20 over value! And you are still being overcharged!
Silly me - and here this person is thinking they are giving you a great deal!
This person has multiples, even dozens of common New York area transit and other venues (amusement park, arcade, etc) ephemera and tickets of various kinds; all listed for exorbitant prices, all listed at the same time - all have titles with the word "RARE", and yet so obvious that by the quantity offered and variety of offerings that they are not rare! All one has to do, is go through this persons eBay store.
In the past, I have seen the same item listed for sale under both user ID's, same color, same serial number; with the one being slighter lower in price on the "consignee" listing than on the primary listing. While I could attribute to one listing being a mistake, there were several. It appears to no longer be the case, but it did occur.
This is a very dubious attempt to help "direct" some customers to the second sellers eBay listings, in their quest for a "better price".
This person obstinately mis-attributes a great deal of the items listed to something they are not. On more than one occasion correct information was forwarded to this person in good faith by several buyers, and yet the corrections or revisions refused.
From the standpoint of historical accuracy, this leads the novice collector or seller into thinking they have something they do not.
If this was not enough of an insult to our intelligence, this gonif cannot even post a picture of the items with a decent accurate ruler - it is sloppily hand drawn on piece of printer paper. Seriously? For amount of the price being overcharged, this person could certainly spring for a 99 cent ruler on eBay!
If this was just a case of overpricing, I would have probably just keep my observations to myself and my mouth shut. But all these issues is foretelling of something much more dire. This person in so many ways has become a pox in this area of collecting.
Unfortunately, some people feel they have no choice but to purchase from this person because this person holds most of the high cards, of which obviously are marked. Well, this casino is bringing in a new deck - with this website, catalog and price guide.
Some people write price guides to bolster the worth of their collection. This price guide is being writing to stabilize this particular field of the hobby of collecting, and doing so honestly, even if it may appear I am on a crusade or outspoken.
In conclusion - for now
I can only hope these sellers (and this one unscrupulous seller in particular) finds this chapter, read this and reflect upon this. The jig is up.
And so, in regard to the prices listed herein on this website, these are based on actual availability and desirability and not pulled out of one's derrière. If these prices should happen to undercut the sellers listing price and cause them consternation; as it should - in my ultimate hope and to stabilize the market - so be it.
What is a collector to do? Refuse to pay these prices is what. Send the seller a reasonable offer, and if and when they come back with a respectable counter offer, good. If not, do not be afraid to tell them how unreasonable their estimation of value is. Feel free to cite this guide. And on common stuff; it will come up for sale again. I used to be respectful and shy about doing this. No more.
We, as collectors who spend our hard earned money; and who make every attempt to stretch the budget we allot for our collectibles purchases must REFUSE to allow these greedy sellers to line their pockets, trying to make a twenty dollar bill on a 50 cent piece of paper. It is not even a case of buyer beware / caveat emptor. I can't help but think these sellers are trying to pay their yearly eBay sales and listing fees in one sale. This "reverse thinking" has to cease. It certainly cannot be supported willingly by buyers.
An educated consumer is their worst customer.
Philip M. Goldstein
Several years ago, I (PMG) created a group on Facebook for the collectors of New York City Transit Exonumia and Ephemera. After about a year, it had not received the kind of attention I had envisioned, and so I archived it.
With the publication of this website however, I now foresee increased interest the area: those that will be seeking knowledgeable assistance for pricing of objects in the area, as well as offering those collectors a specific area to have discourse on the subject; and provide an opportunity to buy, sell and trade as an alternative to eBay (and their fees).
So I thought it would be an opportune time to un-archive the group.You may access the group here:
- no modern generalized politics;
(historical politics regarding fare control and fare raises however are inevitable and will be accepted in polite, mature, congenial discussion)
- no copyright infringement;
- no spam or off topic advertising;
- no unsolicited criticism;
- no generalized posts bashing or criticizing the MTA / NYCTA / MN / LIRR;
- no deliberately false or inaccurate posts (so called April Fools posts),
- above all else: NO DRAMA.
- yes to wheeling and dealing,
- yes asking questions,
- yes to bringing friends.
Whether it be a large assortment of items or only one, we are greatly appreciative of the submissions of the following people to help make this website what it is;
Steve Hayden Civil War Tokens
and much appreciation goes to Steve Grande for the unlimited amount of digital space for, and the hosting of; this website on Trainweb.com!
All content, graphics, and text -
© 2021 - Philip M. Goldstein
George S. Cuhaj
Philip M. Goldstein
In 1998 after relocating to Margaretville, NY; and following in his father's passion; he refocused his collection to local Upstate New York railroads: the Ulster & Delaware, Delaware & Eastern and Delaware & Northern Railroads; with a strong emphasis on ephemera.
Coinciding with these collecting interests throughout the years, and coupled with knowledge learned from formal schooling in graphic arts, and his self taught experience in webpage design, he has created and maintains websites / digital encyclopedias on these various subjects; such as Offline Rail-Marine Freight Terminal Railroads of New York City, as well as Military Railroads of New York City; and another website pertaining to the Double Ended Railroad Wreckers of New York Area. Another website regarding The Development of the Carfloat Transfer Bridge of New York Harbor; has been well received and cited in the field of professional engineering.
His collecting interests led him to author a website on Toll Scrip and Token Issues of New York and New Jersey - www.nyctollscrip.info, which is how he became acquainted with George S. Cuhaj. This in turn led them both to discover their mutual collecting interest of New York City Transit ephemera, and their subsequent decision to create this website.
In his spare time, Philip can usually be found photographing BNSF and Union Pacific Railroad operations near his home. He is an avid lover of animals and is owned by no less than ten felines, two dogs and his wife Deborah. (But don't worry, his house doesn't smell like cat poop!).
|Page 1: Fare Tickets & Employee Passes||Page 7: Half Fare Tickets - Sundays / Weekends|
|Page 2: Tokens||Page 8: Half Fare Tickets - Senior Citizens & Handicapped|
|Page 3: Continuing Ride Tickets & Transfers - Rapid Transit||Page 9: School / Student / Pupil Reduced Fare & Free Passes|
|Page 4: Continuing Ride Tickets & Transfers - Surface; Streetcar Lines||Page 10: Special Issue Tickets|
|Page 5: Continuing Ride Tickets & Transfers - Surface; Bus Routes||Page 11: Staten Island Rapid Transit|
|Page 6: Continuing Ride Tickets; Surface; Add-A-Ride||Page 12: Hudson and Manhattan & Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH)|
|© 2021 - Brighton Beach Express|
|Philip M. Goldstein / George S. Cuhaj|
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