NYCTA Authentication


Tokens & Icons was founded in 1991 when Ward Wallau was approved for a license with the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA). This occurred eleven years after he first approached them in 1980 when they filled in the "Y" of the quarter-sized "Y-cut" subway token. Recently out of hotel school, the high rents in New York City prompted him to utilize his entrepreneurial know-how to earn some spending money. While Ward understood that businesses need to find ways to save money, Ward wanted to prove to the NYCTA that by filling in the "Y," they were dispensing of something truly unique and beloved to the city and its riders. After collecting a hundred of the "Y-cut" tokens, Ward, though not a cuff link aficionado, thought they might be a logical way to reincorporate the tokens into New York's daily life and celebrate them as an icon of the city's rich transit history.


With his first fifty pairs of authentic New York Subway Tokens, he received positive feedback and thus began his decade-plus endeavor to secure a license. The length of time was due in part to the fact that the NYCTA never had participated in a licensing agreement before this opportunity and thus had nothing from which to model one. During the eleven years, Ward had intermittent contact with the NYCTA while working at an accessories company and later his wife's dress business. Many friends and colleagues suggested he simply replicate the tokens, a concept which could not have been further from his vision. When Ward finally secured permissions from the NYCTA and the authentic tokens, he and Bulova Watch were the charter licenses. Bulova chose to replicate the tokens, yet Tokens & Coins (the original name of Tokens & Icons) was able to embark with the long sought after "authentic" token.

For more than 20 years now, the NYCTA, now known as the MTA provided Tokens & Icons with thousands of transit tokens directly from its depository. Receipts and documents for each purchase of tokens are kept on file at Tokens & Icons' headquarters. All items created have gone through a stringent approval process by the MTA. The New York Token, Grand Central Terminal and Subway Map Collections are offered for sale in the two Transit Museum Stores in New York. Given this longstanding relationship, you can be 100% confident with the authenticity of your purchase. 

On November 2, 1995, The New York Times published an article about the history of the token and the future of the Metro card.



Slab of GCT floor pink marble removed during the renovation and received by Tokens & Icons.
Photo of renovation from the MTA's site.



Tokens & Icons began working with authentic Massimo Vignelli's iconic Subway Diagrams (the term preferred by the designer himself) in 2013. He has been kind enough to hand-sign every Certificate of Authenticity (COA) issued with each pair of cuff links.

Massimo enclosed the letter below when he sent back the first batch of Tokens & Icons COAs that he hand-signed: