Alcoholics Anonymous: The History of AA Coins

Alcoholics Anonymous: The History of AA Coins

Human beings have long attached deep meaning to a lucky charm or a comforting keepsake.

Whether wearing a specific cap to a sports match or holding onto your child's first piece of art, tokens help us feel connected to something greater than ourselves.

Scientists argue that believing in the fact that something brings good fortune can improve performance. It might even give an illusion of control.

For someone in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), receiving AA coins to mark their sobriety may empower them to control their drinking. This can provide both inspiration and a feeling of pride in what they have achieved so far.

There is a long history of addicts using mementos or sobriety chips to track and celebrate their society. However, the exact story of how they became commonplace is a mystery.

Alcoholism is a challenging addiction, with 90 percent of addicts relapsing at least once in the first four years after they decide to quit or seek treatment.

Let's look at the vital use of AA medallions over history.

The First Mementos

There are Alcoholics Anonymous branches around the country. Different uses of AA chips and medallions have emerged over the years. In one AA newsletter, writers recall early examples of mementos carried to remind members of their sobriety.

Clarence Snyder, an AA pioneer who formed one of the first groups in the country in Cleveland, took his last sip of alcohol in February 1938. He then carried a medallion with him to mark his sobriety until he died almost 50 years later. It was made from a silver dollar.

Another AA legend who played a role was a nun called Sister Ignatia, who worked to admit alcoholics to a hospital in Akron from 1939. She helped thousands of alcoholics. When alcoholics would leave the hospital after five days of detoxing, she would hand them a Sacred Heart Medallion.

Sister Ignatia described the coin as a commitment not to drink. She urged her patients to return it if they were going to drink again. Similar medallions were used as far back as the 1840s by movements promoting abstinence from alcohol.

The modern practice of handing out sobriety chips to those suffering from alcohol addiction can be traced back to an AA group in Elmira, New York, in 1947.

Creative Tokens

There have been some creative ideas for tokens over the years.

In 1948 an AA group in New York, gave out a cast bronze camel to mark significant sobriety anniversaries.

Then in 1953, there are records of a poker chip club began handing out AA chips in nine different colors representing the period of sobriety.

How Do AA Coins Work Today

Alcoholics Anonymous itself does not produce AA tokens after an official decision in the 1990s that the use of such sobriety medallions should be a personal choice.

Tokens can come in a variety of forms and materials. However, most groups give out colored chips to mark the different months of sobriety, from silver for one day to purple for nine months. There are also special versions to mark the number of sober years or big anniversaries.

Using Tokens to Aid Sobriety

There is no easy way to face an alcohol addiction, but certain traditions can help motivate someone who is struggling. AA coins are a powerful way to remember the path to giving up drinking.

Take a look at the variety of coins available to mark your sobriety.