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Andrew Jackson Does Hard Time

We talk a lot about the Great Depression of the 1930s, but things were pretty depressing a 100 years earlier during the "hard times of President Andrew Jackson.

Jackson believed that too much of the financial power of the country rested in private hands. Those hands were digging deep into the pockets of Americans and causing prices of goods and services to skyrocket.

​To combat the runaway inflation, Jackson issued an order forcing banks and anyone else receiving public money to accept only gold and silver for the sale of public land. The immediate result was the tightening of money and the failure of many banks and business. Everyone started hoarding coins “Hard Times” …made it tough to do business! So political activists and merchants privately minted “hard time” large cent- sized copper tokens to take up the slack.

Many hard time tokens were simply advertising pieces. But others combined commerce with politics. They featured satire and propaganda along with their sales messages. “I take the responsibility,” says Andrew Jackson, standing in an empty treasure chest, on a famously hard time token. The value of hard time tokens is determined more by supply and demand than by individual rarity, and even common tokens can sell for up to $100.

Not bad for a coin that’s not even worth a penny.