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Arabic style castle

Aladdin’s Castle token

An anepigraphic token from an iconic US arcade.

Arabic style castle

I mostly thought I’d write this one up as it is one which is hard to search for if you acquire one and don’t already know what it is. I have mentioned a couple of times in the Coin of Note newsletter that I like anepigraphic coins. I should add, perhaps, that is primarily when I actually know what the piece is!

Aladdin’s Castle

Aladdin’s Castle was a chain of amusement arcades in America. The first Aladdin’s Castle opened in the Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Illinois, USA in around 1969. Even if you aren’t from the USA, you might be familiar with the mall, if you’ve watched The Blues Brothers, as much of it was filmed there, after the mall closed in 1979.

Aladdin’s Castle was opened by Jules Millman, who worked for a coin-operated machine business, and wanted to expand. They weren’t interested, so he formed his own company with his brother. The Dixie Square mall was one of the few places willing to take a gamble on this new type of arcade, at a time when they seen as disreputable and outright banned in many places.

This first location was an immediate success and the chain took off. Five years later, Millman sold the chain to Bally’s. Most of the Aladdin’s Castle tokens listed on Numista have the “Bally’s” name, indicating they were later issues. At its height, Aladdin’s Castle had 450 locations.

The last Aladdin’s Castle arcade lasted until 2021. The Covid pandemic helped bring about its demise, and owners Bandai Namco withdrew from the North American market. The location, at Quincy Town Center Mall, Illinois still exists, now branded as “At the Pier Arcade”. At the Pier Arcade boasts 90 arcades across the USA. They no longer use tokens, but now swipe cards.

Obverse

The token doesn’t have any writing, so it’s a little difficult to determine obverse and reverse. I have gone with the castle side, as many of the pieces on Numista use.

The obverse features a castle with rounded minarets in an Arabic style.

Reverse

Either a man in a turban, as described on Numista, or a map (my guess) or ... something else entirely.

The reverse of the piece features, what I initially took to be a map, perhaps of the depicted castle. Numista’s description has it as a head wearing a turban. I can “see” the top part of the turban, but what should then be the “face” definitely look odd to me for that explanation. I’d be interested to know if anyone actually knows for sure either way.

The missing link

If you were familiar with the Aladdin’s Castle arcade, you may have recognised the token immediately. If, like me, weren’t familiar with the arcade, there isn’t much to go on. A search for “castle” in Numista’s exonumia section yields 974 results currently. Token Catalog has 1038 results for Castle. Most of the Numista pieces with “Aladdin’s Castle” text on them have an oil lamp on the other side. But I happened to find it because I have another piece which bridges the gap:

Arabic style castle on one side, and the text "Aladdin's Castle" on the other, with an oil lamp to the left of the word "Castle"

The castle on this one is the same as on the anepigraphic piece, but helpfully, it has “Aladdin’s Castle” on the other side, which helped me find the Numista entry and more information. Given the arcade name on this piece does NOT include “Bally’s” above it, I suspect this one is from the first five years of the business.

I particularly wrote this piece because I thought someone might stumble across it who has one of these tokens and has been wondering what it is. By the same reasoning, if you DO have a piece that you can’t find written up anywhere (particularly on Numista or Token Catalog), the numismatic community overall would be indebted to you if you could spare the time to write up even some basic info on it in a contribution to maybe either of those sites. I did that with the Aladdin’s Castle piece with the text and the castle (depending on when you read this, it may or may not be live yet – it often takes a few hours or longer).

Much of the information for this piece came from Todd Mitchell’s pieces on Aladdin’s Castle on CodeWritePlay.com. Please do go and check out his site for some great images of the abandoned Dixie Square Mall.

Have you got an anepigraphic piece you can’t pin down? Do post it on Mastodon, and tag me. I may or may not know. If I do, I’ll reply – and if I don’t, I’ll happily boost it and we can try and find out together! Or, if you know what the other image on my piece is, please do let me know!

Arabic style castle

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