Hard Times Token

Explore its history

1837 Hard Times Token - Half Cent Worth of Pure Copper Obverse
1837 Hard Times Token - Half Cent Worth of Pure Copper Obverse. Image Courtesy of: Heritage Auction Galleries, Ha.com

Definition

A hard times token is a token that was minted by private mints in the United States from about 1833 to about 1844. Most of them were made out of copper and were approximately the same size as the half cent or large cents that were officially issued by the United States Mint during that time.  

History of Hard Times Tokens

The economy was in decline during this time and life was "hard" for many Americans.

This was a result of the economic policy of President Andrew Jackson and the controversy between him and the bank of the United States. In 1837 banks suspended issuing coins for payments and exchanging paper money for coins. This resulted in a coin shortage when people began hoarding and removing coins from general circulation.

Necessity drove private mints to create these tokens in order to fill the need for coins in the United States.  Hard times tokens commonly display diverse designs reflecting political campaigns and satire of the era as well as advertisements for merchants, products, and services.