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.
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 are part of a rare group of tokens called the "Zichron Ya'akov Tokens".
The brass tokens were distinct; 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 The tokens were later withdrawn from cirulation as illegal tender. The tokens are very rare considering that 30,000 gold francs were used to purchase the tokens, indicating that a large number had been issued.
The denomination has not been fully ascertained although they have been called a piastre. The Baron himself 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.
Yehuda Wromser, the representative of Baron Rothschild, suggested that local tokens would be used as money substitures only in Zichron Ya'acov, howerver they were also used in buying products in Jaffa, Haifa and in the Arab settlements nearby. While the tokens were mostly used by the settlers, they gradually spread their use 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.