Reverse Side is Graphic Art - Not an Actual Scanned Image
All lettering incused. First line across the top "ISTHMIAN CANAL".
Second line "COMMISSION".
Third and last line in larger font "37961" (employee number).
Size and Shape
Star shape with sharp corners. 51.5mm from top point to bottom point, 44 mm
across the middle at the widest point. Round hole at the top.
First issued sometime between January 1, 1906 and September 4, 1907 (see notes). Word of mouth
story is that these id checks for only used for a short time because
they kept stabbing people in the thigh.
The large stars have higher numbers and the manufacturer name which was missing
on the smaller stars. Therefore these smaller stars were probably made first.
An announcement was made January 19, 1909 that all star-shaped checks should be
turned in for the round ICC checks by March 1, 1909.
Isthmian Canal Commission. This was the U.S. government entity set up by Congress
to build the canal.
The pieces in collector hands include #2851, #2860, #5571, #7602, #13925, #16870,
#18826, #19815, #21249, #24995, #25531, #33022, #33424, #34724, #36647, #36957,
#37594, #37961, #38012, #40356, #40766, #42464, #47889, #47987, #48439 and #71269.
Unknown, but probably American Railway Supply Co. (New York) like the larger stars.
Other Catalog Numbers
Hamlin's ICC-55, Asociación Numismático's ID-4.
There are two almost identical brass star-shaped ICC checks. One is slightly larger
and has larger numbers than the other. The easiest way to tell, however, is that
the larger star has the manufacturer's name in tiny letters at the base of the
top point while the smaller star does not. Some of the smaller stars were
nickel-plated, thus creating a third variety.
Some stars have had their points rounded off, probably by their original owner
when they got poked one too many times. This damage reduces the value by two
grades (i.e. a check in grade Fine is valued as if it were graded Good). Some
checks have one or two additional small holes. If the lettering and numbers
are undamaged, there is no reduction in value for these holes.
A number of these stars including #19815 and #42464 were sold to the Isthmian
Canal Souvenir Company by the ICC. As #42464 has the points removed, these appear
to be stars that were returned to the ICC after being used. The souvenir company
attached the stars to a plaque made from an old Panama Railroad Tie and put the
title "A Life for Each Tie: Panama" on the plaque and sold them at the Panama
Pacific exposition. The Canal Record in June 1914 mentions that bids are being
accepted to buy about 1500 old series metal checks from the ICC. Perhaps the
Isthmian Canal Souvenir Company was the successful bidder, and these are the
checks in question. I have seen both small and large stars attached to
the plaques, but not any of the nickel-plated stars.
These were employee id checks, issued to all Isthmian Canal Commission (ICC)
employees. They were used in controlling access to ICC facilities
(such as commissaries and hotels). They were also used to identify
each employee when they were cashing their pay certificate (similar
to a paycheck).
Timekeepers were instructed to collect 50 cents from contract laborers who
failed to turn in their star-shaped checks. This provision did not apply
to American citizens. Approximately one-sixth of the work force was American
A governor's circular dated December 27, 1907 refers to the star checks and
gives the instruction that employees should retain the same star check when
transferring between divisions. The first Canal Record came out in September 4, 1907,
and there are no references to the metal checks before December 27, 1907.
So the star checks most likely were issued before September 4, 1907.
Twenty-six specimens of this variety of brass check in collector hands are known
to me. Recent sales include:
- Check #34724 - Offered for auction on eBay starting at
of $95 for an auction ending April 19, 2007. Did not sell.
- Check #36957 - Offered for auction on eBay starting at
of $125 for an auction ending April 19, 2007. Did not sell.
- Check #40766 - Part of railroad tie souvenir. Auction sale on ebay on February 11, 2007
for $102.50 plus $6.50 shipping.
- Check #33022 - Auction sale on ebay on February 6, 2007 for $67.99.
- Check #33424 - Auction sale on ebay on February 6, 2007 for $73.89.
- Check #25531 - Auction sale on ebay on December 3, 2006 for $49.25 plus $1.75 shipping.
- Check #47987 - Sold at auction on eBay on January 1, 2007 as part of a lot of twelve
items for $150, including ICC diamond check #85345.
- Check #37594 - Auction sale on ebay on July 19, 2006 for $22.50 plus $2.50 shipping.
- Check #18826 - Auction sale on ebay on June 12, 2006 for $90.99. Embedded in a
paperweight sold at the Panama Pacific Exposition in 1915.
- Check #2851 - Part of railroad tie souvenir. Auction sale on ebay on May 5, 2003
for $44.44 plus $5 shipping.
- Check #5571 - Part of railroad tie souvenir. Auction sale on ebay on April 6, 2003
- Check #24995 - Auction sale on ebay on January 26, 2003 for $110.38. Points were
removed from this check.
Although relatively common the
star-shaped checks are a favorite among collectors. This demand in turn
makes the price higher than it would be otherwise.
Another Example of CK-2.3
Scale: 4 pixels equals one millimeter