Danny writes: Dear Coin Doc, I have a coin from 1837 approximately the size of a half dollar. It appears to be made of copper. On the front there is a girl and it reads E. pluribus unum on top and the date (1837) on the bottom. The back reads Bentonian Currency, Mint Drop, and the date once again. If you’re familiar with the coin could you please tell me a little bit about it?
The era of the late 1830’s into the 1840’s was a period of economic depression in the U.S. The battle was between proponents of the Bank of the United States, a private institution and President Andrew Jackson who wanted to abolish it. Many privately issued tokens were struck to take the place of hoarded Federal money. These “hard times” tokens also became political propaganda instruments.
The “Mint Drops” were hard money advocates and “Bentonian Currency” refers to Senator Thomas Hart Benton, a supporter of President Jackson’s hard money policies. This substitute for a U.S. large cent was a statement of hard money versus unbacked, inflating paper money (sarcastically called “shinplasters” as they were “only good for stuffing in your socks to keep warm in the winter” that were issued by the private, Bank of the United States).
“Hard Times” Tokens are popularly collected as they have interesting designs and tell the story of the economic struggles of this era. As with coins, condition and variety play and important role in value.
The 1837 token is 28 mm in diameter. There are two major varieties. The token is also known with the date 1838 and 1841. Approximate value Range: Good – EF US $3 – $60. Uncirculated pieces are rare: range $300 -$400.