Hard Times Tokens - Date Period
Is there an official period of years that Hard Times Tokens were privately minted in the United States? Also, in what region of the country did they circulate? Were these tokens still accepted as the economy became more favorable in time?
That is a really great question!
Although some authors like the idea of setting dates as a definition of HTT's the fact of the matter is that Jacksonian Hard Times is an era and numismatically includes many pieces made before the crash. At the time any "money" would be used in transactions. Tokens of large cent sized followed the cent, in circulation, untill it was entirely removed from daily use. Even buttons were used in especially hard hit areas at the time.
Many advertiseing coppers existed prior to the crash and many coppers from other nations circulated freely. There were no laws preventing the production of trade tokens of copper because copper was not legal tender. Any cent sized copper was acceptable and even included old George III regal and evasion coppers.
A fist full of coppers back then, could include trade tokens, colonials, regular cents, political advertisments, ect.ect. at that time in history. The rarity of coin in circulation made anything fair game.
It's very hard to accuratly define what a Hard Times Token really was!
Last edited by copperhobbie; 05-13-2013 at 11:24 PM.
To my experience, the years 1832-1844 tend to be the most widely accepted years for the Hard Times Era. I seem to recall a source or two who added a few years, arguing for 1832-46, but the source and rationale eludes my memory. The vast majority of HTT's saw use in the New England states. They were worth their weight in copper, a specie payment; this, what with most of the HTT's being equivalent to a large cent. Many HTT's we see nowadays are well worn; this, attesting to their heavy use as currency. The hoarding of coins during the Civil War, coupled with the downsizing of the cent, likely contributed to a general decline in use of the HTT's in the 1860's.
As a longtime collector of counterstamped coins, I see relatively few HTT's that have been counterstamped. Yet, there are many coins that were stamped, during the HT era; mostly, coppers. Canadian copper tokens, being a cent's worth of copper, then circulated stateside, and many were stamped by issuers in the New England states. I'm inclined to suspect that those who used counterstamps as a form of advertising were perhaps reluctant to place a stamp atop another merchant's token. Most of the counterstamped HT and CW tokens that I see tend to be political or patriotic, as opposed to being storecards.
In recent years, the large majority of "new" or discovered HTT's are counterstamped coins. Likely, there are many more of these counterstamped coins that out there that await discovery as designated HTT's. Pinning down the years that a coin was most likely counterstamped can be difficult though. I use the words "most likely" because we can rarely be assured when a counterstamp was actually applied to any particular host coin; this, even though the duration of a particular merchant's business can often be documented. For example, there are some known counterstamps that were applied "post mortem" ... sometimes many years after the so-called issuer died. It's simply then a case of someone having resurrected the deceased chap's counterstamp.
Thank you for your input and very interesting. How did the private mints acquire the blank copper planchets for the minting of their tokens. Was American copper plentiful during the period of Hard Times Tokens? Is it possible that a counterstamped HTT would have existed as competition amongst store owners?
That's a good question, Mike ... one for which I have no immediate answer. My guess is that the copper planchets were largely imported. Perhaps, someone else will chime in with a factual reply?