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Webster/Van Buren Hardtimes Token

By Elton Smith
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There have been several incompetent people who became president of the United States. From 1829 to 1837, Andrew Jackson held the office. In his two terms he made a series of economic blunders that led to the one of the worsts depressions in American history. The depression started just after Jackson left office in 1837 and lasted until 1844.

Banks failed, businesses went bankrupt, prices declined and many people lost their jobs. Small change became scarce. How could you buy something in a store if there were no coins?

Americans responded. All sorts of organizations began making unofficial coins as a form of advertisement, and the stores accepted them at face value (usually one cent or half a cent). Some of the organizations were political, some were social (see my anti-slavery token), and some of the tokens were made by companies to facilitate trade.

This token has a political message. Martin Van Buren (who had been Jackson's vice president) won the election of 1836, just a few months before the depression started. His name and the words "METALLIC CURRENT" are listed around the edge in the image on the left side of the photo, along with a sinking ship with the word "EXPERIMENT" across its side. In 1841 when this token was made, people were unhappy about the depression. The picture on the right has the name Webster and the words "CREDIT CURRENT" around the edge, along with a ship sailing on smooth water with the word "CONSTITUTION" across it's side.

As mentioned, this token was made in 1841, the middle of the depression. Daniel Webster, who lost the 1836 election to Van Buren, is shown as the country's way out of the depression. Martin Van Buren is shown as part of the cause of the depression. Things were very partisan, somewhat like they are today.



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