Indian Head Cent, Bronze (1864-1909)

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1868 1C, RD

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Copper-nickel Indian cents of 72-grains weight were struck from 1859 until well into the year 1864. Beginning in July 1862, copper-nickel cents were pulled out of circulation by hoarders. It became a virtual impossibility to engage in a simple commercial transaction such as having barbering done, or buying a glass of soda. (citation needed--ed.) To satisfy the need for media of exchange, an array of coinage substitutes appeared on the American scene. These were quite diverse and included printed tickets, postage stamps in paper envelopes or pasted on cards, encased postage stamps (postage stamps of values from lc to 90c encased in a mica-covered brass frame patented by J. Gault), and federal Fractional Currency notes.

Important to the present discussion, a flood of privately issued tokens appeared in circulation. Most of these were about the diameter of the copper-nickel Indian cent, but were struck on thinner planchets made of copper or copper alloy such as bronze. In the absence of the availability of government Indian cents, these tokens were readily accepted by merchants and citizens alike. They were produced in nearly 10,000 different designs and varieties, and today form a special collecting discipline (the Civil War Token Society issues a journal on the subject, for example).

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