You asked what a cent could buy, I read that washers for a time back then sold for 4 cents each so it was obviously cheaper to just use the coin with a hole in it. (I was water hunting years ago and around one pier I started finding dozens of pennies with holes drilled in them. A fellow came out from the house to see what I was doing. I showed him the pennies and he started laughing and told me how he had gone to the hardware store to buy stainless steel washers to hold down some indoor/outdoor carpet on his pier and decided it was a lot cheaper to just use the pennies!) That is probably true of coins with holes in the middle but when they are on the edge like the one you have pictured it's for other reasons. Also read that in that time period almost no clothing had pockets so other ways to hold your change was necessary.