Token Talk – “Hard Times Tokens”


The series known as “Hard Times” tokens comprises tokens issued privately in the United States from 1832 to 1844. The pieces are mostly made of copper and are the size of a United States cent of the period. There is several different categories of ‘Hard Times’ tokens featuring banks, political motifs, advertisements of private merchants, and more. Various influences made up the political issues, many of the pieces carried utterances of the statesman of the time on two great issues – Jackson’s hostility to the bank, and Daniel Webster’s defense of the Constitution – issues which extended into the presidency of Martin Van Buren. On one of the most widely circulated tokens of the era, Jackson is depicted emerging from a chest of money holding a purse in one hand and a sword in the other, with the words ‘I take the responsibility.’ In Van Buren’s inaugural address he declared “I follow in the steps of my illustrious predecessor,” a reference to Jackson. This design was seized by the caricaturists of the day, who represented him as carefully stepping in the footprints of a ‘jackass’ marching solemnly along the highway. Many devices allude to the firmness of character justly attributed to Jackson, which his enemies chose to call stubbornness, and the ‘jack’ was the favorite symbol of this quality.

Brian Dresback,

Manager, Christopher’s Rare Coins