Hard Times TokensPart 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. 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.
The series may therefore be grouped into two categories; political tokens and advertising store cards. An example of a political token attacking Andrew Jackson’s fiscal policies showing the sword and the purse in the same hands.
Advertising tokens were known as “store cards” even though they were usually struck in copper. 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.
The two foremost authorities on the series were Lyman H. Low and Russell Rulau. 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-#) numbering system.
Hard Times Tokens Rarity Scale 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)
Seeds of the Panic of 1837 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.
What brought about the Panic of 1837? 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 was highly controversial during his two terms as President (1829-1837). Andrew Jackson Nicholas Biddle Satirized as King Andrew the First President of the Bank of the US
Running Boar The Running Boar token was struck by opponents of Andrew Jackson who preferred easier credit through paper money over hard currency. HT-9, Low-8R1
Direct causes of the “Panic of 1837” 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.
“ I follow in the footsteps of my illustrious predecessor.”, (from Martin Van Buren’s inaugural address.) Henry Clay Martin Van Buren
A Cartoon showing the financial and moral chaos brought on by the Panic of 1837
Political Hard Times Tokens 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
HT-67 1837 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”
During the Era of Hard Times the standard cent bore the Coronet Liberty design An 1837 Coronet Liberty Cent
Popular motifs from the then current Coronet Cent and silver coin reverses were often incorporated on to the obverses of Hard Times tokens 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”.
Millions for Defense… 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.”
More Political HT Tokens 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
While not as convincing as Scot or Reich’s Liberty heads, some HT engravers’ efforts were more successful than others. 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.
This is an example of a crude replication of the “Liberty” head. It is a scarcer variety. 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.
Daniel Webster was a staunch supporter of the Bank of the United States 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..
Another HT token in support of Webster’s fiscal views. Like the previous example this one mistakenly uses CURRENT instead of CURRENCY. 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
Senate adversaries Daniel Webster Thomas Hart Benton Pro Bank of US Anti Bank of US
A Phoenix Rising from the Ashes 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.
May the 10th, 1837 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.
There were four Phoenix obverses muled to two different reverses Another almost exact example with subtle differences. HT-67, Low-48, R1
These two reverses were made from different dies The reverses of HT-66 & 67. Note how the alignments of the leaves differ in relation to the inscription around the edges.
Loco Focos were a term for matches. 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.
The Tammany Hall HT Token Another distorted version of Miss Liberty also known as the 1838 Loco Foco token, HT-63,Low-55, R129mm
The Depression continued into the 1840 Election campaign. Van Buren ran for reelection but was defeated by William Henry Harrison. 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)
William Henry Harrison 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
Am I Not A Woman or a Sister? An abolitionist token depicting a kneeling female slave struck in 1838. HT-81, Low-54, R1
Am I Not a Man or a Brother? 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.
Am I Not a Man or a Brother? 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.
The origin of the Beehive token is unknown but it definitely dates from the Hard Times era 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.
There are many other examples of Hard Times tokens representing political views; some which are extremely rare and valuable. Female Head/ May 10th, HT-65, Low-40 R2 -END OF PART ONE-