Green’s Dictionary of Slang

red cent n.

also blue cent, red copper, red dime, red penny, white quarter
[the copper colour of a cent; the blue cent may refer to the blue cardboard ration tokens issued in US during WWII as payment for processed foods (meat tokens were red)]

(US) a trivial amount of money, usu. in the phr. not a/one red cent, absolutely nothing.

[US]J.S. Jones People’s Lawyer I i: It would not have cost you a red cent.
[US]D. Corcoran Pickings from N.O. Picayune 133: Cuss me if I care [...] not the fust red cent.
[US]Durivage & Burnham Stray Subjects (1848) 60: I’ve sunk a very pretty sum / In rides and sweetmeats past; / And haven’t now the first red cent; / She drained me of the last.
[US]C.A. Bristed Upper Ten Thousand 144: It was a great catch for Miss Lewison, without a red cent of her own.
[US] ‘Pike’s Peak’ in Fred Shaw’s Champion Comic Melodist 12: I had got nary a red cent.
[UK]Besant & Rice Golden Butterfly I 22: There’s not a dollar left – nary a red cent.
[US]Lantern (N.O.) 28 May 4: Not a red cent has been given.
[UK]C. Roberts Adrift in America 211: ‘My luck again,’ said I [...] ‘and not a red cent to buy any more.’.
[US]W.M. Raine Bucky O’Connor (1910) 19: Not a red cent on the old man himself.
[US]‘A-No. 1’ Snare of the Road 130: ‘How much will it cost to settle this affair out of court [...]?’ asked Mr. Davis, addressing the chief of police. ‘Not a red cent, sir!’.
[US]F.S. Fitzgerald ‘Bernice Bobs Her Hair’ in Bodley Head Scott Fitzgerald V (1963) 89: I hear they’ve been mooning a round for years without a red penny.
[US]Dos Passos Manhattan Transfer 93: I’m flat [...] Ain’t got a red cent.
[US]A.C. Inman 25 Oct. diary in Aaron (1985) 386: An’ me without a red copper.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Romance in the Roaring Forties’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 28: They do not have a white quarter to their name.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Judgement Day in Studs Lonigan (1936) 829: I lost everything, I lost every red copper in this vale of tears.
[Aus]K. Tennant Foveaux 278: Me three brothers up country never s’much as gave a red cent towards it.
[US]G. Fowler Good Night, Sweet Prince 131: ‘Won’t Collier advance it to you?’ Stevens asked. ‘Not one red cent,’ Jack replied.
[US]C. Himes ‘Let Me at the Enemy’ in Coll. Stories (1990) 46: Aint got one white quarter not even a blip.
[US]D. Runyon Runyon à la Carte 208: I do not return with a white quarter.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 283: Just started on that overtime slave deal again, pinchin’ them little red pennies.
[US]I. Bolton Christmas Tree in N.Y. Mosaic (1999) 290: Had he money for a taxi? No, he hadn’t a red cent.
[US]M. Spillane One Lonely Night 129: ‘Did he owe you any money?’ ‘No, not one red cent.’.
[US]C. Hamilton Men of the Und. 81: I ain’t got a white quarter to my name.
[US]J. Thompson Criminal (1993) 107: My services will not cost you one red penny.
[US]E. Dundy Dud Avocado (1960) 92: You see if you don’t thank us till your dying day even if you don’t get a red sou for it.
[US]Mad mag. Jan. 10: I don’t have to pay back one red cent.
[WI]V.S. Naipaul A House For Mr Biswas 244: ‘I suppose you use up every cent you had?’ ‘Every red cent,’ Mr Biswas said.
[US]C. Himes Blind Man with a Pistol (1971) 156: When Dutch Schultz was rubbed out, every sport in Harlem who had two white quarters to rub together opened a policy house.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 57: Here was a hardened ex-whore who [...] wasn’t laying a red penny on me.
[US]S. King It (1987) 129: She didn’t have a dime; not so much as a red penny.
[US]R. Price Clockers 339: I ain’t payin’ you one red dime no more!
[US]S. King Dolores Claiborne 15: You better believe me when I say I earned every red cent of it. (S.Afr.) [Internet] We agree that Tony shouldn’t pay his image builders a blue cent till they have removed every offending poster and made a public apology to the electorate.
[UK]M. Collins Keepers of Truth 264: We never owed anybody a red cent out here.
[US]Daily Dispatch (S.Afr.) 4 Jan. [Internet] If you haven’t saved every little blue cent that comes your way, if you are not prepared to persevere when job hunting, then your prospects are not good.
[US]E. Beetner ‘Zed’s Dead, Baby’ in Pulp Ink [ebook] Why anyone would load a red cent to these degenerates is beyond me.