Hard times token

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Hard times token from the panic of 1837, depicting Andrew Jackson and a trunk (L44, HT#69).

Hard-times tokens are American large or half cent-sized copper tokens, struck from about 1833 through 1843, serving as unofficial currency. These privately made pieces, comprising merchant, political and satirical pieces, were used during a time of political and financial crisis in the United States.[1]

Today, hard-times tokens are collectible and usually very affordable as coins and as political history.[2]


1837 "Not One Cent for Tribute" token (HT#293)

In 1832, President Andrew Jackson ran for re-election and called for the abolition of the Second Bank of the United States. While he won the election, he worked to weaken the bank before the charter expired in 1836. Without the Bank of the United States, state banks attempted to fill the paper money gap and issued a large number of bank notes, which fueled inflation. Hoping to halt the inflation and speculation in public lands, Jackson and his Treasury secretary, Levi Woodbury, issued the Specie Circular on July 11, 1836. The circular simply stated that as of August 15 1836, banks and others who received public money were required to accept only gold and silver coins in payment for public lands.[3]

Instead of the intended results, the circular spelled the end of a time of economic prosperity. The circular set into motion a panic, and the public began hoarding specie. Without specie to pay out, banks and merchants began having financial troubles. It wasn't too long before the effects of Jackson's decision were felt across the nation as banks and businesses failed, and a depression ensued.[3]

By this time, Jackson's vice president, Martin Van Buren, was the elected president in office. The period of economic hardship, the Panic of 1837, during Van Buren's presidency came to be known as the "Hard Times".[3]


1838 "Am I Not a Woman and a Sister" token (HT#81)

Hard times tokens have been cataloged by Russell Rulau, based on earlier work by Lyman H. Low, and his numbering of types is the standard. Rulau classifies tokens broadly into:[4]

  • Political tokens referring to the Second Bank of the United States controversy.
  • Political tokens with satirical and other slogans and images. One shows a kneeling slave with the legend “Am I Not a Woman and a Sister 1838" borrowed from an earlier British design.[2]
  • Tokens resembling large US cents with Liberty head, wreath and eagle motifs and legends similar to federal coins such as "NOT ONE CENT". The Feuchtwanger Cent was made with German silver, a copper alloy, intended as a cheaper alternative to copper.
  • Store cards or advertising pieces.
  • Mules (obverse and reverse die combinations.)[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Token". nhhistory.org. New Hampshire Historical Society. Retrieved 26 December 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Getting Started with Hard Times Tokens". coinagemag.com. COINage Magazine. 13 December 2018. Retrieved 26 December 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Corrigan, David. "Hard Times Tokens". museumofcthistory.org. Museum of Connecticut History. Retrieved 2 January 2022.
  4. ^ Rulau, Russell (1 January 1981). Hard Times tokens: A complete revision and enlargement of Lyman H. Low's 1899 classic reference.
  5. ^ "Political Hard Times Tokens". Mansfield Numismatic Society. Retrieved 26 August 2023.


  • Starck, Jeff, "Attack on Second Bank, fiscal policies bring 'Hard Times'", Coin World, January 3, 2006