Hard Times Tokens Now Reported in NGC Census

Posted on 6/1/2007

The online NGC Census now includes population figures for Hard Times Tokens, the popular 19th century series of politically satirical coinage.

The online NGC Census now includes population figures for Hard Times Tokens.

The NGC Census is a comprehensive listing of all the coins that NGC has certified, detailing the total number certified of each issue along with a breakdown by grade. The newly published Census of Hard Times Tokens includes over 2,000 individual tokens, and is available for free on NGC’s Web site: Hard Times Tokens in the NGC Census.

Hard Times Tokens, dating from 1832 to 1844, comprise a very popular and widely collected series of patriotic, satiric, and merchant tokens. Beginning in 1832, President Andrew Jackson sought to abolish the private Bank of the United States, believing it favored the interests of the wealthy. He succeeded in 1837 by vetoing the Second Bank, and instead funded state banks which were authorized to issue their own currency. The plan failed and hundreds of banks became insolvent. An economic crisis ensued, providing diverse source material for these tokens.

Hard Times Tokens were comprehensively catalogued by New York coin dealer Lyman Low at the turn of the century, describing over 180 tokens and defining the series. This work was revised by Russell Rulau beginning in the 1980s, and renumbered with HT- numbers. NGC uses Rulau’s numbering convention for its certification, and organizes the census in ascending order of HT- number.

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HT-34. The obverse of this token shows a donkey surrounded by the slogan I FOLLOW IN THE STEPS OF MY ILLUSTRIOUS PREDECESSOR, a reference to President Martin Van Buren who pledged to continue Jackson’s contested fiscal policy.
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The reverse shows a tortoise who ambles away with an empty chest on its back, labeled SUBTREASURY.

Most pieces in the series are roughly the size of large cents, and struck in copper or brass. Many pieces include strong satiric imagery, including the portrayal of Jackson as a boar and a donkey. Other pieces have a decidedly more numismatic bent, such as Feuchtwanger Coinage. Dr. Lewis Feuchtwanger’s alloy of copper, nickel, zinc, and tin was proposed as a low-cost alternative to the copper composition used for making large cents. A number of experimental one cent pieces were struck and entered into commerce. They appear in the Hard Times Tokens census by their catalog number HT-268. NGC also designates die varieties for Feuchtwanger Cents.

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HT-71. President Jackson emerges from an empty chest, representing the treasury, which he appears to have plundered. The legend I TAKE THE RESPONSIBILITY clearly blames the President.
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The reverse again mocks Jackson, who was given an honorary law degree — the LL.D. shown on the donkey’s side. VETO refers to his stand against legislation for the Second Bank, which some opponents believed overstepped his constitutional authority.

NGC began its certification service for medals and tokens five years ago. Tokens and medals are graded at regular tier rates, but should be submitted separately from coins. A list of Tokens and Medals eligible for NGC Certification is available on our Web site: Tokens and Medals Certification from NGC. Questions regarding the NGC Census or medals and token grading can be directed to NGC Customer Service by phone at 1-800-NGC-COIN or by e-mail at Service@NGCcoin.