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The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 5, January 30, 2011, Article 8

BOOK REVIEW: THE TRUE HARD TIMES TOKENS BY ROBERT SCHUMAN

Many thanks to George Fuld and Joe Levine for alerting me to a new book on Hard Times Tokens. I got in touch with the author, Bob Schuman. He kindly sent me a review copy and put me in touch with his publisher.

Chris McCawley M & G Publications writes:

We have just published The True Hard Times Tokens by Robert A. Schuman, M.D. The book is 142 pages long, fully illustrated in color and includes a helpful price guide. This first book covers only the political tokens.

The retail price is $90, But E-Sylum readers can obtain a copy for $65 postage paid by writing : M & G Publications, P.O. Box 5250, Frisco, TX, 75034.

Schulman, The True Hard Times Tokens The book arrived Friday and I can tell Bob's a book lover - it was packed as well as I've ever seen a book packed for shipping - wrapped in padding and inside a large, sturdy box padded with packing peanuts. Not a corner was bumped - thanks! It's bound in a nice brown cloth with gold lettering. The paper is thick and glossy, an ideal base for the gorgeous full-color photos throughout.

Most of us (in the U.S., at least) are somewhat familiar with tokens from the early 1800s called Hard Times Tokens. But what are "True Hard Times Tokens"? Schuman explains in the book's introductory material:

Lyman H. Low, in his magnum opus, HARD TIMES TOKENS, 1900, describes five categories of tokens, which represented his criteria for inclusion into the series. They were:

1. Those having reference to the controversy about the United States Bank.
2. Those bearing popular satirical and political maxims of the period.
3. Those with devices and inscriptions imitating more or less closely the legal coinage.
4. Shop cards, dated, of the period.
5. Mulings with either the obverses or reverses of any of the foregoing.

Categories 1, 2 and 3 are generally referred to as the political series, although many collectors of the Lyman Low era, and even later proponents of the series such as Wayte Raymond and John J. Ford, Jr. considered these to be the so-called true "Hard Times" Tokens. Wayte Raymond, in his STANDARD CATALOGUES of 1940-1942, called the political series - "HARD TIMES TOKENS" and devoted ten pages to them with photographs, prices, and a brief essay by Alfred Z. Reed. The remaining pieces he called EARLY MERCHANT TOKENS 1789-1850 depicted by photographs and line drawings over 36 additional pages.

Schulman, The True Hard Times Tokens These so-called "Hard Times" tokens are distinct from the merchant tokens (store cards) issued during the Hard Times era, which have no direct political reference or neutral specie (see Neutral Specie Substitutes discussed later) motif. The store cards need and will receive a serious and studied treatment in separate subsequent works. Those merchant tokens that are directly muled with or mated with actual dies that are a part of the political series (Low's category number 5) will also be included here because of their direct connection to the political pieces and to allow for total inclusion of all political die usage.

The purpose of this monograph is to photographically illustrate the tokens described above, and to establish current factual information on rarity, prices realized (both public and private), condition census data where relevant, and die states. Each piece will be described using the original Low numbering system. Anecdotal points of interest will be noted where appropriate, and an effort will be made to correct prior errors or misconceptions if necessary.

We'll look forward to Schuman's subsequent books in the series. The present volume is a welcome work, building on earlier researchers (including Low, Carl Wurzbach, Wayte Raymond, John J. Ford, Jr, and Russ Rulau) and summarizing in one neat volume the current state of knowledge on the topic.

Each major token variety is given a separate page or more, starting with an enlarged color photo of one of the best known specimens. The photos are marvelous, and worth the price of the book alone. For each token the author describes the obverse, reverse and edge, along with the metal, rarity, and condition census - a description of the highest-known condition pieces.

For the rarest tokens a list of known specimens is included, and for many of the tokens there are notes ranging from a short phrase to several paragraphs. Here's something I didn't know: On Low 44 "The H stands for engraver Edward Hulseman."

The book includes a handy price guide in four grades (VF/EF/AU/UNC) plus a table of auction results from the 2004 Ford sale and 2008 Dice-Hicks sale. The Bibliography lists some 15 books, articles and runs of auction catalogs consulted, including unpublished notes and page proofs by John Ford for Raymond's Standard Catalog of U.S. Coins and Tokens (circa 1960).

There's a limited amount of text in the main body book, but what's there is well written and seems pretty thoroughly researched. The white space makes for a very pleasant and usable page layout. The seven pages of introductory material covers a lot of ground, including a treatment of the Bushnell tokens. All in all, this is a welcome new monograph on an interesting topic that has fascinated U.S. numismatists for over a century, and it provides a great baseline of information for the collectors of today and tomorrow.

Schuman, The True Hard Times Tokens


Wayne Homren, Editor

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