Reverse Side is Graphic Art - Not an Actual Scanned Image

Obverse Design All lettering is incused, and enameled black. Line along upper left edge "ISTHMIAN". Line along upper right edge "-CANAL-". Line curved downward across the bottom "COMMISSION". Line across the middle "37145" (employee number).
Reverse Design Blank.
Metal Brass Size and Shape Diamond shape with rounded corners. 38 mm wide by 59 mm high. Round hole at the top.
Dates Issued Diamond shaped checks were issued starting in August 1905. They were replaced by the star-shaped checks, sometime before September 4, 1907.
Issurer Isthmian Canal Commission. This was the U.S. government entity set up by Congress to build the canal.
Numbers Issued Pieces known include #31110, #31479, #37145 and #49251. Exact variety of ##42377 is uncertain.
Rarity Scarce. Manufacturer Unknown, but perhaps American Railway Supply Co. out of New York. Other Catalog Numbers Hamlin's ICC-25, Asociación Numismático's ID-2.
Varieties The diamond-shaped 38mm by 59mm checks come in two varieties, with either small-sized or large-sized numbers. Rulau also reports a variety that is 35mm by 53mm.
Function These were the first general issue employee id checks. They were used to identify which people were employees of the Isthmian Canal Commission and allowed to use ICC facilities (such as commissaries and hotels). They were also used to identify each specific employee when they were cashing their pay certificate (similar to a paycheck).
Population Count Five specimens of this variety of metal check in collector hands are known to me. Recent sales include:
  • Check #31479 - Auction sale on ebay on February 6, 2007 for $170.37 in VF condition.
  • Check #49251 - Auction sale on eBay on June 17, 2002 for $73.87.