After the panic of 1837 and the subsequent 5 year depression thereafter known as the Hard Times, Lewis Feuchtwanger, a pharmacist, issued tokens made of German Silver, an alloy primarily made of copper, nickel, tin, and zinc. It was during these times that much of the coinage in the U.S. was hoarded and disappeared from circulation.
Decades before the use of nickel-alloy for circulation coinage in the United States, Feuchtwanger proposed his token’s alloy to Congress as a lesser expensive metal for use in the minting of U.S. coppers. Though Congress entertained his idea, they ultimately turned down his proposal.
Feuchtwanger didn’t let rejection by Congress stymie his entrepreneurial efforts. Instead of giving up on the idea, he chose to market his “silver” composition to store keepers, merchants, and the public at large.
Out of his pharmacy at 2 Courtlandt Street in New York City, Feuchtwanger dispensed his tokens, often handing them out as change. Many remained in circulation for decades, with some being traded as currency up to and during the Civil War.
In addition to his one cent tokens, Feuchtwanger also minted undated one cent tokens, and 3-cent tokens made of the same alloy. Moreover, additional store card tokens of varying values were produced using his metal composition.
In total, there are currently 14 different known varieties of Feuchtwanger’s One Cent pieces. Many are quite common and can be readily obtained in the collectors market. Other varieties are quite rare.
The specimen pictured below is the HT-268 (1-A) Feuchtwanger Cent variety. Having survived in Choice Very Fine grade, you will notice obverse wear on the specimen, exhibiting tell-tale signs that the specimen had been circulated in commerce.
As with most Feuchtwanger Cents, those that circulated most commonly exhibited wear along the length of the serpent, as well as along the highest points of the eagle’s feathers.
The specimen below is a HT-268 (2-A) variety. Like its counterpart above, it also saw circulation, and thus is also Choice Very Fine in grade. While its obverse is different, its reverse is the same. Both the specimen above and the specimen below share the same Reverse ‘A’ type. A distinguishing characteristic of the Reverse ‘A’ variety is the unusual spacing between the letters ‘O N E.’
Of the 14 known varieties of the Feuchtwanger cent, there exist six different varieties of obverses, and nine different reverses. Their pairings and respective rarities are denoted in the following:
Plates of Varieties
I have prepared plates which describe all of the die pairings for the Feuchtwanger Cent. To my knowledge, these plates do not exist anywhere. The plates illustrate each of the obverse and reverse die pairings, with rarities:
Below are instructions on how to attribute a Feuchtwanger cent. I recommend using the above plates as a visual aid.
To attribute a Feuchtwanger’s Cent, first perform Obverse Diagnostics, then perform Pairing.
Does there exist a curved line above the ‘8’ and ‘3’ in the date? If yes, it is an Obverse 5. If no, go to step 2.
Counting from RIGHT to LEFT starting at the eagle’s leg, is the third tail feather clearly NOT touching the ground? If yes, it is an Obverse 3. If no go to step 3.
Counting from RIGHT to LEFT starting at the eagle’s leg, is the first tail feather touching the top of the snake? If yes, go to step 4. If no, go to step 5.
Is the base of the ‘7’ in the date higher or equal to the base of the ‘3’? If higher, it is an Obverse 1. If equal, it is an Obverse 6.
Is the number ‘3’ in the date lower than the number ‘1’? If lower, it is an Obverse 4. If higher, it is an Obverse 2.
Pairing (Reverse Diagnostics)
First Plate (Obverses 1 and 2)
These two obverses can only be paired with Reverse A. Therefore, based on Obverse Diagnostics, the specimen is 1-A or 2-A.
Second Plate (Obverse 3)
Does the reverse have two berries inside the top right of wreath? If yes, it is a Reverse C. If no, go to step 2.
Does the reverse have 12 or 13 berries? If 13 berries, it is a Reverse G. If no, go to step 3.
In ‘CENT’, does the top horizontal stroke of ‘N’ touch the top horizontal bar of ‘T’? If yes, it is a Reverse E. If no, go to step 4.
In ‘ONE’, is the top of the ‘O’ about equal to the top of ‘N’, or is it distinctly lower? If about equal, it is a Reverse B. If distinctly lower, it is a Reverse D.
Third Plate (Obverse 4)
Does the wreath’s left stem touch the ‘M’ in ‘COMPOSITION’ and also does the lower bases of ‘E’ and ‘R’ in ‘FEUCHTWANGER’S’ touch? If yes, it is a Reverse F. If no, it is a Reverse E.
Fourth Plate (Obverse 5)
Is there a berry to the left or right of the bow inside the wreath? If left, it is a Reverse H. If right it is a Reverse G.
Fifth Plate (Obverse 6)
To the left of the bow, is there a stem without a berry? If yes, it is a Reverse I. If no, go to step 2.
Does the reverse have 12 or 13 berries? If 13 berries, it is a Reverse G. If 12 berries, it is a Reverse A.
Notes and Sources
- More Adventures with Rare Coins, Q. David Bowers, Collectors Universe, ©2002, pgs.95-131
- Standard Catalog of United States Tokens 1700-1900 Fourth Edition, Russell Rulau, Krause Publications, ©2004, pgs.164-167
- A Guide Book of United States Tokens and Medals, Katherine Jaeger, Whitman Publishing, ©2008, pg.67
- The Numismatist, June 1913
- ‘Attributing Feuchtwanger One Cent Tokens,’ TAMS Journal Volume 44, December 2004
- Catalogue of the Celebrated Collection of United States and Foreign Coins of the Late Matthew Adams Stickney ESQ., Henry Chapman, Davis & Harvey Auctioneers, 1907
- The New York Public Library
- The New York Evening Post, November 18, 1837