Fri 22 November 2019
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A book token is worth a thousand words (or more)
Available since 1932 and still resolutely traditional, book tokens are the best Christmas gift, full of energy. Who needs toys?

A book, as we all know, is the gift that keeps on giving, and I certainly hope that Santa fulfilled your festive reading wants at the weekend. But can there be any gift more bursting with potential energy than the magic that is the book token?

Book tokens are like money, but better – you can't be distracted by spontaneous non-book purchases that you'll only regret later, and you can't turn their spending power to more mundane tasks such as buying food or paying for utilities. Book tokens are for books alone, and thus their value is magnified considerably.

I haven't had a book token for years. In these days of Amazon wishlists and time-poor friends who just ask you what you want because they haven't the leisure or inclination to scour your bookshelves and seek out that missing Gustav Meyrink volume for your collection, few people take a chance on just buying a book for someone. Buying a book "cold" is like buying underwear as a present – you either completely ace it or get it spectacularly, shame-inducingly wrong.

I was both shocked and thrilled, looking at the National Book Tokens website, to see that you can buy tokens up to the value of £250. Imagine that: half a monkey to spend on books! For those of us still recession-strapped, however, the more reasonable (and most popular) level is the starting price of a tenner.

Book tokens still come in lovely paper versions, of course, but these days you can also get pre-loaded credit card-style gift tokens – a far cry from when book tokens first became common gift currency, in 1932, when they were sold as Green Shield-style stamps that were licked and slapped on to a gift card.

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The Guardian

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