Big Nub Numismatics's Blog

02 Jul 2018

Centless America

Coins | Big Nub Numismatics

In 1862, the Civil War was far underway. Its effects were not just evident on the landscape, government, and production. The money of that time took a hard hit, and the people that used it. As the first Legal Tender notes were issued in 1862, the public lost trust in the economy. Citizens preferred the coins of that time to the new "greenbacks" which were not yet backed by the U.S., and many people went searching for the lower, and higher denominations and hoarding them. With the Union and the Confederacy struggling to pay for the war, and people hoarding, war bonds became the norm'. This was a terrible time in the economy. on April 20th of 1862, the Mint inventoried 940,379 one cent pieces. This was a good supply for the economy, and things were looking good. Until August 31st. On that day, only 368 one cent pieces remained, and the banks of the Union were panicking, adding to the already " Hard Times" Many substitutes came in through circulation made by shops and businesses, This led to famous series of tokens, and the back-in-time motion of our economy. Within months shells, and leather were used again as currency. In December it was no better, having only 254 one cent pieces left. With the war affecting overseas trade, the mint did not have sufficient supplies to mint the greatly needed cents. Most of the materials had already been taken from American soil, except for some small amount left in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and even this was depleted because of problems smelting the ore of nickel and copper. 
Mint officials were now draining the supply of turned in large cents to melt, and remind into new small cents. Many experimental compositions were tried out, but ultimately the copper-nickel prevailed. Many large companies experienced delays for orders of cents of up to four months along with chain banks. Citizens were lining in front of the treasury and mints hoping to grab some one cent pieces. The women were served first, and then the men. Also in 1862, the Union took back the New Orleans mint, but it would be over a decade before minting would begin again. Postage currency bills also flooded commerce, creating oddities for numismatists to collect today. Because many were saved in hoards, the number of high state examples exist in the many thousands, although MS-65 is quite rare. In 1918 many auctions sold off lots of 100 or more cents of 1862 in MS+ condition for a relatively cheap price. Not only did one cent pieces disappear, but all denominations. mintages soared in following years to get the economy back into shape, and alloy differences were struck eventually in 1863.



Level 6

I belong to the Civil War Token Society too and really enjoy collecting them and the research...which there's alot of! Great blog!


Level 6

As a member of the Civil War Token Society, I can really appreciate your blog. It was a terrible time for our country that must never be forgotten. The study of the tokens used and what people were forced to do is very interesting. Thanks.


Level 6

Civil War tokens are 1 of the most interesting series. Civil War numismatics is a field filled w/ interesting items.


Level 4

Wow! Nice essay. I love the Civil War time period, lots of history, not necessarily all good history though. ~Mat


Level 6

The Civil War Era is an interesting time for numismatics in the United States.


Level 7

Hi thanks for that. If not for civil war tokens more would be dead. I'm a member of the Civil War Token Society.. It's very interesting. I think eBay ha s thousands of them. Political, store tokens there are a few nice people who collect them. I like them alot. They paid for shoes and food and helped thousand of people. There was no grading in those days just the need to survive. Take a look at them there a very big part of our history and some are really beautiful. Thanks for the information keep it up. Mr. Bowers has published some books on them but the Fuld brothers started it 'll .Mike.

We use cookies to provide users the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your cookie settings, we'll assume that you agree to receive all cookies on money.org. You may disable cookies at any time using your internet browser configuration. By continuing to use this website, you agree to our privacy policy and terms of use. To learn more about how we use cookies and to review our privacy policy, click here.