Commodity tokens

The peculiarities of the token designs can only be understood when the entire board from which they were punched is examined. Fortunately, I have a copy of the game where the empty frame was retained; and when scanned, it was possible to piece this and the tokens back together in their original form.

Each group of six tokens forms a grid either two columns by three rows or vice versa, and the names of the ports and commodities are printed above these on the frame that is normally thrown away. These two features correspond exactly to the black part of the storage areas printed on the game board, and while the tokens are printed in blue ink in the Norwegian version, they were printed in black in the Danish original. This also explains why three of the commodities are represented in a way that differ from the others. As the storage areas have their circles filled by a different colour for each commodity, the black printing plate is blank for most of these. However, for the “black” commodity, the colour is inverted, and for the “grey” one a 50% halftone raster is used. Of the other colours, only the “dark purple” has any black in it, with a lighter 25% raster.

The seven groups with two columns and the five groups with three are each laid out side by side on opposite sides of the token board. The former thus adds up to fourteen columns and the latter fifteen. Strangely enough, the former is stretched and the latter compressed so as to fill the same width, even though nothing practical is gained from this distortion. The result is that while all tokens are exactly half an inch (12.7 mm) tall, the tokens in seven groups are slightly wider than this, and in five groups slightly narrower. As actually cut, the widths also vary slightly from column to column.

I have made different printable versions of the tokens:

  1. Norwegian tokens — with touched-up original text, regularised size and circles, and solid background tones.
  2. Danish tokens — in black and with the original Danish text restored.
  3. Illustrated tokens – a variant added by me, with each token in its signature colour and an icon representing the commodity as background (the size is rounded up to 13 mm and the circles are enlarged, in order to allow for more detail).

When working with the high resolution scans, it quickly became apparent that the Norwegian version is a modified copy of the Danish original. Danish uld (wool) and bomuld (cotton) becomes ull and bomull in Norwegian, and indeed the final letters of these words bear signs of having been retouched from D to L. A better job was made when changing the D in hvede (wheat) into T in the Norwegian form hvete, but when looking closely, it can be seen that the stroke widths are much more irregular in this letter than what is generally the case, and the letter is wider than in other instances. Even harder to detect is that olie (oil) was translated to olje by just extending the I below the line to form a J — as this letter is not used in any other commodity name, it is impossible to determine whether this letter extended below the line like this in the original typeface or not.

The final two differences consist in respectively removing the letter H in the (tea) and doubling the K in tobak (tobacco). The first resulted in the word being placed left of center, as the position of the T was unchanged when the word was shortened to te. The second posed a greater problem for the translators, as there simply was not enough space to add another letter. Breaking the word across two lines as was already done for bom‑ull and sal‑peter could be an option, but hyphenation rules would require to‑bakk which presumably was deemed undesirable with only two letters on the first line. The entire word was therefore replaced by a slightly smaller handwritten replacement, which is well enough done that it is not apparent except under magnification. In the printable version I made space for the original typeface by adjusting the kerning.

None of these minor blemishes appear on the corresponding storage areas on the game board, where the word tobakk is instead typeset with a slightly smaller font size. The independent treatment of the two copies can also be seen in the differences in the changes made to the names of the ports and commodities above each group. Both on the game board and on the frame of the board the tokens are punched out from, the Danish country names Brasilien (Brazil), Guldkysten (the Gold Coast, now Ghana) and Egypten (Egypt) are translated into Norwegian Brasil, Gullkysten and Egypt as expected, but Australien is translated to the Norwegian form Australia only on the frame that is meant to be thrown away and not on the game board!

The last name that differs, Sydafrika (South Africa), is retained untranslated on both, while it is translated to Sør-Afrika in the rules and on the telegram cards. Although incorrect in Norwegian, the Danish form is transparently intelligible to Norwegians. There is a similar discrepancy between a country name between the board and the rules in the Danish version. About the time the game was released, the official spelling of Egypt changed from Ægypten to Egypten in Danish; and the whereas the game board has the new spelling, the traditional one was used in the rules. For that reason, I have used the older spelling on the frame of the token board, and will do the same on the game board if I ever get around to recreating the Danish one.

Tor Gjerde <i@old.no>