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Hatfield McCoy Fued Coins: What Did They Spend?

Call me crazy, posting this on a coin blog, but I can’t help myself! I am interested in the Hatfield and McCoy Feud, and after the new three-day series on (History Channel), and the fact that a store, they bought goods from, was featured on American Pickers, I am hooked!

I love history based in fact, so this got me thinking, what did the Hatfields and McCoys use as money? Coin were not as common then as know, neither were they as well liked, but there must have been some trading hands. I am sure they did a lot of trading of physical goods, but I am sure there was some coins exchanged as well.

The question is, what type and denomination or metal content? It could have been gold coins, silver coins, copper coins or even some private store tokens. I ma sure they used paper currency as protrayed in the TV series. But who knows, it’s fun to guess, when based in certain facts.

The Hatfield and McCoy Feud lasted generations according to some resources, but the worst of the feuding occurred from 1878-1889. So, this is the best area to consider what coins they might have spent during their feuding years.

The Hatfields and Mc Coys were separated by the Tug River and the Tug River is a border between Kentucky and West Virginia. So most of their coins would not be mint marked being in close proximity to the US Philadelphia Mint during this time. The Philadelphia Mint didn’t put a mint mark on coins during this time.

People of this era didn’t trust money as much as we do today, but they did use money in some transactions, if they were prominent enough to earn it. The Hatfields were, Devil Anse, was successful in the timber business, the McCoys not as successful, but owned a lot of land and livestock.

So, I think 1878 is the best place to start since it was the first year of the Morgan Silver Dollar, and of the feud. This coin was not popular during this time, but it’s possible they could have used one in a transaction or two.

The 1878 7 Tail Feather had a mintage of 9,759,550 so it’s possible one of the family members used the coin. Not only that, during the most dramatic years of the fued 1878-1889, there were millions more Morgan Dollars minted, so there’s chance they might have been used by either family.

Of course there were millions of earlier type coins minted before 1878 and those might have been more likely to be in the ownership of either clan. Older coins would have been most familiar and trusted for a value then newer issues.

That brings Seated Silver Dollar to mind since it had already been minted since 1840 and there’s a chance more of them were in circulation during this time. However, a dollar was a lot of money, to a lot of people and had some buying power in the Tug Valley region. I would think the smaller denomination coins would have been used more readily .

Considering the fact that a dollar was a large denomination, it might be more realistic to think the McCoys used cents up to dimes the most. Maybe the success of the Hatfields gave them a better chance of using the large silver dollar or even a half dollar, but they would have also used smaller coins as well. Just like all of us do today

Did Hatfileds Mac Coys use this half dollar coin?It would be difficult to be authoritative on the subject, but any coin that came their way could have been spent during a transaction. Also, since Devil Anse ran a timber operation with employees he might have paid them in coins or even paper currency.

Furthermore they could have spent some Seated Half Dollars, Large Cents, Half Cents, Half Dimes, Seated Dimes. I would venture to say that they used a mixed batch of coins in ever day transactions, among the trading of what they raised and grew on their land.

I can’t back all of this with facts, but can only make a guess on what the families might have used in their trips to the local general store. We can never know exactly what the Hatfields and McCoys used as money, but it’s interesting to think of what they could or might have used.

You just never know if one of your prized coins in your collection might have been used during the Hatfield and McCoy Feud, but you can bet there’s some out there, and someone owns at least one. It would be an interesting connection of history and modern time to think you own a coin that this feuding family might have spent.


  1. Alan Canavan Alan Canavan
    May 27, 2012    

    What a great story, I enjoyed reading it very much
    Well written and just an all round fun article
    Thank you
    All the best

  2. May 30, 2012    

    Thanks Alan. I have been watching the show and saw paper currency and some coins in use. Of course, this is just a Hollywood version but they could have used notes. I couldn’t see what type of money they portrayed.

  3. kgutwein kgutwein
    June 4, 2012    

    I enjoyed reading your article but maybe I can shed some light on this topic. My great great grandfather owned a hotel and general store in upstate NY. The area is very much similar to where the Hatfields and McCoy lived (just up North) – very remote and secluded. I have an original ledger from the store dating back to 1865 when the building was purchased by my family. Going through the pages and pages of transactions I have never once found a money exchange. In remote areas most store owners would except payment in trade. Let’s say 2 chickens for 1 sack of flour etc. So chances are the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s bargained for most of their purchases although Hatfield was more successful and he may have had more opportunities to acquire cash.

  4. June 4, 2012    

    Thanks, good information. I am glad you posted it. I am sure the more remote from the mints people are, during that time, the less likely they would have used coinage or currency.

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