On July 25, 1953, New York City’s subway fare was raised to 15 cents. Instead of making subway riders have three nickels each time, the city introduced the subway token, which became a symbol of the city until it was phased out for the MetroCard in 2003.

The initial subway token design featured the initials NYC in the center, with the Y cut out. This design was used until 1979, when, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the subway system, the “diamond jubilee” token was issued, featuring a diamond cutout at the top.

Subway token, 1979, metal. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Bella C. Landauer

In 1980 the subway token reverted to the design with NYC in the middle, though it was solid this time. Then, in 1986, the “bullseye” token was introduced, with a circle of silver-colored metal in the middle of the brass token. When it was introduced, subway fare was $1.

Transportation token, 1986-1995, metal. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Bella C. Landauer

In 1995, the final subway token design was introduced, the “five boroughs” token. This featured a pentagon cutout in the center. By the time it was introduced, MetroCards had already been active for a year, though it took until 2003 for the MTA to phase out the tokens completely.

Transportation token, 1995-1003, Metal. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Margaret K. Hofer

However, these weren’t the only transportation tokens used in the city! From 1929 through 1956, the Brooklyn and Queens Transit Corporation operated streetcars in Brooklyn and Queens as a subsidiary of the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT). This token was for a half-fare on one of their streetcars.

Transportation token, 1930-1960, Metal. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Bella C. Landauer

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