Green’s Dictionary of Slang

cole n.

also coal
[SE coal, the staple, as a heat-provider, of everyday life, as is money. Cole had faded by 19C but post the cole lasted, increasingly in metaphorical use, until late 19C. Also ? link to SE cole, brassica, an earlier play on cabbage n.2 (3a); however note Fr. 15C Provencal coler, to follow an occuption, ult. Latin colere, to cultivate]

1. [late 16C–1920s] (UK Und.) money.

2. [1930s] a penny.

In phrases

hard cole (n.)

[mid-19C] (US Und.) cash (silver or gold), as opposed to banknotes.

post the cole (v.)

[late 18C–19C] to pay down money.

smuggle the cole (v.)

[late 17C] to pretend that one has no money when it is time to pay a bill at an inn or tavern.

tip (up) the cole (v.)

[mid-17C–mid-19C] to pay (a bill).