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.
After collecting a hundred of the "Y-cut" tokens, Ward 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.
During the eleven years, Ward had intermittent contact with the NYCTA, and 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.