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The blue and yellow Metro Cards are cheaper to produce and can be programmed to offer discounts and transfers.

Emptying tokens from turnstiles and delivering them to token booths is time-consuming and expensive.

(There are exceptions: One Paula Glatzer wrote to the Times "I care about the end of subway tokens.

I always carry a few with me, mostly for the times my Metrocard won't swipe....

Crooks jammed the coin slot to keep the tokens from falling down.

As the commuter walked off indignantly -- out a token but unable to get through the gate -- the perpetrator would swoop in and suck the token out of the turnstile.

But just as technology would eventually doom the token, technological limits created it.

In 1953, when the fare rose to 15 cents, engineers could not figure out how to make a turnstile operate with a dime and nickel or three nickels.

And so the clatter of metal tokens being emptied into buckets will soon join the clip-clop of horses on cobblestones, newsboys shouting "Extra" and the nasal intonations of Joan Rivers' taxi tape among New York's many bygone sounds."It says 'NYC' on it, so that's certainly a big part of its appeal, but it's also popular because it's a very democratic symbol," said Sarah Henry, a historian with the Museum of the City of New York, which featured the token prominently in its recent exhibition entitled "NYCentury" on the city's symbols."Because the subway is so deeply embedded in New York's identity and so many different kinds of people use it, the token by symbolizing the subway comes to symbolize the city." In that way, at least, the token will not be replaced: "The Metro Card," she said with a touch of scorn, "doesn't have the visual presence of the token." RELATIVE NEWCOMER The token is so closely identified with New York that most people do not realize that the subway system carried New Yorkers for 49 years before it acquired its own currency.At the transit museum store, you can buy a set of the five "historic" New York City subway tokens, introduced in 1953, 1970, 1980, 19, as well as subway tokens made into key rings, lapel pins, cuff links, bracelets, and money clips.Other stores sell ashtrays, paperweights, drinking glasses, coasters, mugs, ties, t-shirts, Christmas ornaments, even dresses festooned with the image of the token.

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