Baron Edmond Benjamin James de Rothschild (1845-1934) was a French member of the Rothschild banking family, a philanthropist and Zionist, a strong supporter of the Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel during the first Aliyah.
The first settlements, Rishon Le'Zion, Rosh Pinah, Zichron Ya'akov, Yesod Ha'Ma'ala and Petach Tikvah among them, experienced great financial difficulties. After being asked by various bodies in Israel and around the word, Baron Rothschild agreed to support the Moshavot by means of the supervision of his administrators.
Baron Rothschild was involved in the life of the Moshava Zichron Ya'akov since 1883. Among his many enterprises there, he opened a winery, the second in size in the Land of Israel. In 1900, the management of the Moshava was transferred to the J.C.A. Company (A Jewish settlement company); yet in practice, it was continued to me managed and funded by the Baron.
The brass tokens are part of a rare group of tokens called the "Zichron Ya'akov Tokens". Since the Baron's paper tokens were not honored outside of the Moshava, the buyers needed small change, which was constantly lacking during the Ottoman rule. Baron Rothschild thus decided to issue coins of his own. They were minted in Paris in spring 1885, three years after the foundation of Zichron Ya'akov. The brass tokens were minted in Paris; on one of their sides the words "Zichron Jacob" were impressed and on the other, the denomination of 1/4, 1/2 and 1. The Baron vouched for the tokens and linked the value of the token to the value of a small Turkish coin called "Metlik". The Zichron Ya'akov tokens affected the status of the Moshava as an independent economic territory with its own coins. These tokens were used as money substitutes for the people of Zichron Ya'akov who wanted to buy products in Haifa, Jaffa and the Arab villages in the area rather than in the shops of the Moshava. The tokens were used by the settlers but their use spread to Arabs living in adjacent villages who traded with the Jews.
The Ottoman rule, however, vetoed their use and confiscated all of them. Therefore, only few dozens of hidden tokens remained. Three brass tokens, for use by the settlers of "Zichron Ya'akov". Minted in Paris in 1885. Noted on one side is their value surrounded by the inscription "Zichron Jacob" and on the second side "Zichron Ya'akov" in Hebrew letters. The tokens have the value of 1, ½ and ¼ (undecided if piaster or metlik). Tokens of other values were not minted.
Ottoman Palestine, Zichron Y'aakov, after 1885. Brass 1 piastre (27mm, 5.10gr), Haffner-CC.17A. Obv: Settlement name in Hebrew. Rev: Name in English with denomination of 1 Piastre. Token was struck in Paris in 1885, for use as small change in this settlement, and also used as small change in Jaffa, Haifa and in the nearby Arab settlements due to the lack of Ottoman copper coins. PCGS AU-58.
Ottoman Palestine, Zichron Y'aakov, after 1885. Brass 1/2 piastre (27mm, 5.10gr), Haffner-CC.17B. Obv: Settlement name in Hebrew. Rev: Name in English with denomination of 1/2 Piastre. Token was struck in Paris in 1885, for use as small change in this settlement, and also used as small change in Jaffa, Haifa and in the nearby Arab settlements due to the lack of Ottoman copper coins. PCGS AU-55.