Hard Times Tokens Part One – Political Tokens. 1832 to 1844. Hard Times tokens were so named because a majority of them were issued in the US during the “Era of Hard Times” that began with the “Panic of 1837” ending in 1843.
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1832 to 1844
Hard Times tokens were so named because a majority of them were issued in the US during the “Era of Hard Times” that began with the “Panic of 1837” ending in 1843.
Specifically, the Hard Times tokens themselves represented a slightly longer period that lasted from 1832 through 1844 in which mostly copper tokens--about the size of the large cent; (i.e. 27mm to 29mm)--were privately struck for individuals who wished to make their political feelings known or who had something to sell.
An example of a political token attacking
Andrew Jackson’s fiscal policies showing the sword and the purse in the same hands.
An example of a advertisement token showing an Eagle surrounded by 13 stars dated 1837 on the obv. with type of goods, proprietor and address on the rev.
Seen at right is the 4th
edition of Russell Rulau’s
“Hard Times Tokens”
based on Lyman Low’s
original 1899 publication.
This was the last edition
to use both the Low (L-#)
and Rulau’s (HT-#)
R-1 = common
R-2 = less common
R-3 = Scarce
R-4 = Est. 76 to 200 pieces survive
R-5 = est. 31 – 75 pieces survive
R-6 = est. 13 to 30 pieces survive
R-7 = est. 4 to 12 pieces survive
R-8 = est. 2 to 3 pieces exist
R-9 = Unique (Only one known)
The 1830’s under President Andrew Jackson became a period of increasing west- ward expansion followed by tremendous economic growth. Construction of
railroads and canals were accompanied by land spec- ulation, much of it support-
ed by bank notes not back-Andrew Jackson ed by gold and silver.
President Andrew Jackson was unhappy with the way the Second Bank of the United States managed the nation’s money supply believing it favored the interests of the rich. The bank’s president Nicholas Biddle, who looked down on Jackson’s folksy ways, challenged the president’s power by applying to renew the bank’s charter for a 15 year term in 1832, some four years before it was to lapse. Though approved by Congress, Jackson successfully vetoed the measure and in the same year soundly defeated Henry Clay in the general election.
Andrew Jackson Nicholas Biddle
Satirized as King Andrew the First President of the Bank of the US
The Running Boar token was struck by opponents of Andrew Jackson who preferred easier credit through paper money over hard currency.
After the election Jackson proceeded to withdraw all federal funds from the Bank of the United States depositing them in state banks; many of which turned out to be unreliable. Jackson followed this with his famed Specie Circular of July 11, 1836 requiring banks to “accept nothing but gold or silver coin for the sale of public lands”. During the election campaign of 1836, Jackson’s heir apparent, Martin Van Buren won on the slogan, “I follow in the steps of my illustrious predecessor”, a statement that would haunt him when the already weakened banks suspended specie payments on May 10, 1837. Within weeks hundreds of banks failed and the six year Depression known as the Era of Hard Times” began.
Henry Clay Martin Van Buren
A Cartoon showing the financial and moral chaos brought on by the Panic of 1837
A Plain System…”The constitution as I understand it” A satirical token depicting Jackson brandishing a sword and purse with a donkey displaying Doctor of Laws. HT-25, Low-12, R1
Jackson is portrayed popping out of a ‘Jack’ in the box’ or safe symbolizing the US Treasury. The reverse shows a Ship (of State) foundering with the inscription “Van Buren and metallic currency”
An 1837 Coronet Liberty Cent
An 1837 Coronet Liberty Cent alongside a
Hard Times token showing a Female head obv.
The reverse of the 1837 Coronet cent alongside the reverse of a Hard times token bearing the often seenmotto,“MILLIONS FOR DEFENCE, NOT ONE CENT FOR TRIBUTE”.
The phrase, “Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute” appeared around 1785 in a dispute between the young USA and North African rulers who demanded a substantial bribe for payment to allow the the Barbary Pirates to release US hostages held in Tripoli. On Hard Times tokens, “the reverse legend MILLIONS FOR DEFENCE, NOT ONE CENT FOR TRIBUTE “was a means to combine patriotic sentiments with a denial of legal tender.”
Tortoise carrying safe, “SUB TREASURY”, Fiscal Agent, Executive financiering; running Jackass, “I follow in the footsteps…all anti Jackson sentiments ” HT-34, L-20 R1
The upright Ship portrayed the sound money principles of Daniel Webster while the foundering ship (at right) symbolized Van Buren’s failure at getting the nation out of the Depression.
Webster-1841, Van Buren-1837
HT-20, Low-62 R1
This 1837 dated HT token shows the Female Head and the “NOT ONE CENT…” in an attempt to replicate the standard cent coin of the period. HT-48, Low-33 R1. These cost anywhere from 6/10 to 8/10 of 1¢ to produce.
Another 1837LIBERTY – NOT ONE CENT, catalogued as HT-36, Low-22 R3, 24.2 mm.
During the Hard Times period, some merchants would accept these tokens for 1¢ in value towards goods.
This token catalogued as HT-23, Low-65, R4 is in support of Webster’s view of sound credit and currency; (i.e., paper money). It happens to be a scarce variety..
The ship motif referred to “Ship of State” sailing smoothly on the sea symbolizing sound fiscal judgment regarding the nation’s Credit and Currency HT-17, Low-64, R1.
Thomas Hart Benton, Senator from Missouri took the Jacksonian position favoring “hard money” as opposed to “shinplasters”, the epithet for worthless paper money.
An anti Benton token opposing Bentonian “hard” currency. Referring this to a “mint drop”. HT—62, Low-38
Daniel Webster Thomas Hart Benton
Pro Bank of US Anti Bank of US
One of the more popular HT token motifs indicating “paper money was only fit to be burned”. The slogan, “Substitute for Shin- plasters” refers to an over abundance of worthless paper money HT-56, Low 45, R1.
Another example of the Phoenix obverse but with the May 10th reverse; the date New York banks suspended specie payments resulting in the failure of over 600 banks plunging the nation deeper into Depression. HT-66, Low-47 R1.
Another almost exact example with subtle differences. HT-67, Low-48, R1
The reverses of HT-66 & 67. Note how the alignments of the leaves differ in relation to the inscription around the edges.
On Oct. 29, 1835 in preparation for a Democratic Party meeting in Tammany Hall located in NYC, one faction who wanted to see their candidate nominated arranged for the gas to be turned off in the building. The other faction apparently got wind of this scheme and brought Loco foco matches and candles to illuminate the hall and succeeded in nominating their candidate. For a time the Democratic Party became nicknamed the Loco Focos as a result. The satirical Hard Time token on the next slide was struck in 1838.
Another distorted version of Miss Liberty also known as the 1838 Loco Foco token,
An 1840 Campaign HT token depicting Martin Van Buren, holed at 12:00 as struck.
HT-75, Low-56, R2
In the election campaign of 1840 Henry Clay again ran for President but lost the nomination to fellow Whig candidate William Henry Harrison who defeated Van Buren in the general election .
A campaign Hard Times token on behalf of Whig Party presidential candidate Henry ClayHT-79, Low-192 R2 (1840)
The hero of Tippecanoe
was the Whig candidate
William Henry Harrison
who first ran for President
in 1836 but lost to Van Buren.
Four years later, partly due
to his legend, but more
likely, the economic con-
ditions he defeated the
Incumbent in 1840
An abolitionist token depicting a kneeling female slave struck in 1838.
HT-81, Low-54, R1
This token was actually struck in the 1790’s as a British Trade token (Middlesex Conder Token D&H-1037) displaying anti-slavery sentiment. In 1838 the male obverse was reused but instead of the hands on the reverse, the wreath shown on the previous token was inserted. It Is extremely rare.
One of the rarest of Hard Times token, HT-82, Low-54a, (R8if genuine). The photograph however is a composite taken from the obverse of the previous British Conder piece and the reverse of the female hard times token.
Obv. Beehive, 1838 “By industry we hope to Prosper”, Rev. Wreath, “Wisdom and prosperity combined.” H-83, Low-194 R2
After 1836 the half cent was suspended for a number of years. A private engraver named Edward Hulseman issued this hard times half cent token in 1837.
An 1837 ½¢ Hard Times Token featured a Spread Eagle(a la engraver John Reich) on the obverse with a wreath surrounded by thirteen stars with the inscription HALF CENT WORH OF COPPER. It is listed as HT-73, Low-49R2 23mm.
Female Head/ May 10th, HT-65, Low-40 R2
-END OF PART ONE-