June 26, 1284, is the traditional date given for the events that we have come to know as the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The basic story is well-known.
There is a rat infestation in the German town of Hamelin (Hameln in German). A mysterious piper appears who offers to use his magical pipe to lure the rats from the city where they drown in a nearby river. He does so but the town burghers refuse to pay him the agreed upon fee. While the adults are at church for the religious festival of John and Paul Day, the piper returns and leads the town’s children away.
There are two different versions of what happens next. In the more macabre version, the children meet the same fate as the rats and drown in the river. Another version has the piper returning the children after the town pays his fee. And yet another has no resolution and the children remain missing.
As with many oral traditions, there is some semblance of truth to the tale but it has been enhanced over the years. The Hameln town records begin with an entry in 1384 remarking that it has been 100 years since the town’s children left. A stained glass window marking the event was installed in the town church around 1300. It was destroyed in the 1600s but there are references to the window in written accounts from the 14th and 15th Centuries.
Historians have posited various theories as to what really occurred. One theory is that the children died as a result of a plague or other illness. Another theory for which there is significant evidence suggests either a voluntary or involuntary migration to either the Baltic or Transylvania.
The historical accounts only account for the disappearance of the children. The rats and the pied piper are embellishments that are traced to the 16th Century. It is not clear as to whether these elements were added centuries after the event to explain why the children disappeared because the true cause was forgotten or suppressed. It is also possible that the rats and the pied piper were part of a separate event that was later merged into the earlier account of the missing children.
Like many German traditions, the story of the pied piper is memorialized in notgeld from Hameln. It appears on a kleingeldschein issue from 1918. There are two different serienscheine versions of the story. Portions of these are illustrated here.
The National Council for Prevention of War was founded in September 1921 as the National Council for Limitation of Armaments. The Council acted as a clearing house for peace organizations in the United States. Frederick J. Libby was appointed Executive Secretary. Libby was a Congregationalist Minister whose experiences doing relief work with the American Friends Service Committee during WWI convinced him to dedicate his life to the pursuit of world peace.
In late 1922, the organization changed its name to the National Council for Prevention of War. It had three primary goals: (1) progressive world organization, (2) reduction of armaments by international agreement, and (3) and worldwide education for peace.
The Council opened offices around the country. Over the years it added a speakers bureau, motion picture division and a youth initiative. Its magazine, Peace Action, had a circulation of 25,000.
As World War II approached, the Council advocated American neutrality and proposed a war referendum. One of the tools the Council used to fund and promote its initiatives was a Peace Bond Campaign that commenced in 1935.
The Peace Bonds were not so much bonds as they were donation receipts. The goal of campaign was to raise $1,000,000.00. The bonds were available in amounts of $1.00, $5.00, $10.00, $25.00 and $100.00.
The Council appointed sales representatives in every state and assigned a quota for each. Newspaper articles promoted the sales.
There were three coupons attached to the bonds. The first coupon was used to designate 40% of the donation to one of the organizations that were served by the Council. The second coupon was good for a subscription to Peace Action, the Council’s monthly newsletter. The third coupon was a ballot to express the giver’s opinion on a number of peace initiatives.
The Peace Bond initiative was successful in raising money for the Council and raising its public profile around the country. Unfortunately, its efforts were overwhelmed by world events. It remained active until F.J Libby’s retirement in 1954. Its corporate existence ceased in 1971.
The records of the National Council for Prevention of War are in the Peace Collection at Swarthmore College.
I need new tires on my car. The dealership told me last fall they needed to be replaced. I hoped the winter would not be too bad and that I could wait until spring. Our winter in northeast Wisconsin was fairly mild that went well. But the time has come. Needing tires reminded me of one of the more unusual numismatic souvenirs from WWII when not only could tires not be bought, but the government compelled Americans to sell their tires for the war effort.
When Ebay was in its infancy I came across a United States Treasury check from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation for $.20. I researched what I could (it was sometime around 1999 so internet resources were limited) but could not find anything that helped to identify what it was for. The only significant information on the check was a notation that read: D.S.C. Idle Tires. I thought this might be a business name.
I knew the RFC was involved in assisting state chartered banks during the Great Depression and assumed that the check had something to do with that.
Over the years I ran across similar checks from the RFC that referenced D.S.C. Idle Tires. One thing that struck me as odd is that they were all written for amounts that were multiples of $.20.
The riddle was finally solved a few years ago when I came across a check for $.80 that was accompanied by a document from the Defense Supplies Corporation. It prompted me to re-new my research into the RFC.
During WWII, the RFC had many roles. One of these was procuring materials for the war effort that had previously been supplied from areas now controlled by the Axis. The Defense Supplies Corporation was the RFC subsidiary charged with this task. The most notable commodities that were now in short supply were rubber and tin. Both materials came from parts of Asia that had been taken over by Japan.
The D.S.C Idle Tire Program required individuals to sell their excess tires to the government. One spare could be kept in addition to the tires on a vehicle. All other tires had to be sold. There were significant penalties for having more tires than authorized. Non-compliance also prevented a person from receiving gas ration coupons.
The Office of Price Administration (OPA) was in charge of rationing in United States. OPA also established ceiling prices for commodities to prevent price gouging. One of the items under rationing and price control by OPA was automobile tires. The ceiling prices established by OPA were the same prices that D.S.C. paid for idle tires. The prices are detailed in the chart above. Scrap tires were purchased for $.20 per tire.
The Railway Express Company assisted the government in collecting tires. They established 23,000 collection points around the country. Individuals brought in their tires and filled out a form with their particulars. The tires were shipped by Railway Express to D.S.C. depots. The tires were then examined and appraised. Compensation was forwarded by mail. The seller could be paid by check or receive war savings stamps or war bonds.
With those words, Sir Edmund Hillary announced that he and Tenzing Norgay had summited Mount Everest on May 29, 1953.
Everest was named for Sir George Everest who had been Surveyor General of India. The name was proposed by his successor, Sir Andrew Waugh. As the story goes, Waugh proposed the name for the peak since there was no local consensus as to what it was called. Everest himself was opposed to it indicating that it was not a name the locals would be able to pronounce.
Everest has been depicted on banknotes of both Nepal and China. In Nepal, the mountain replaced the image of the king on the face of its notes after the last monarch was deposed. In China, it appeared on the back of the ten yuan note issued in 1980.
Sir Edmund Hillary is depicted on the face of the current $5.00 note from New Zealand. When the note was first introduced in 1992, it was one of the few notes to depict a then-living person other than a monarch or political leader. The mountain shown on the note is Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest point, which was also scaled by Hillary.
I remember hearing those words from my dad as a child. I was about ten or so. I was chasing one or another of the myriad of neighborhood kids who came to play at our house. We were in the basement and their must have been some sort of kerfuffle between us that did not work to my advantage. He ran up the stairs and I was in hot pursuit. On my ascent I shouted, “I hate you!”
I was met at the top of the stairs by my dad and he uttered those words in his usual, matter-of-fact tone. There wasn’t any anger in his voice and he didn’t raise his voice to say it. It seemed more like a piece of advice than a scolding. My dad was a man of few words. When he said something it was usually meaningful and you paid attention to it. It would be some years before I learned the story behind those four words.
It is Memorial Day weekend 2020. It has been seventy-five years since the end of World War II. And seventy-five years since the death of my uncle, Cpl. William Edward Downey, USMC, on a godforsaken piece of volcanic hell known as Iwo Jima.
Bill was a farm boy born in Ferryville, Wisconsin and raised in the Coulee Region of the state. He followed his older sister, Mary, to school one day. And then the next. They let him keep coming to school even though he was not old enough. Because of this he graduated from high school in the spring of 1941 having just turned seventeen. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in January 1942 three months before his eighteenth birthday.
He completed training and was assigned as a rifleman to the Ninth Marine Regiment, Third Marine Division. They kicked around the South Pacific. He spent time on Bougainville and he participated in some mopping up operations on Guam. Somewhere along the way, he contracted malaria.
In late 1944, he was on orders to the Fleet Hospital to convalesce from the malaria. The regiment was preparing for what they knew was going to be a big operation. By this time, Bill had been advanced to Corporal and was a team leader in charge of handful of other Marines. Instead of heading off for easy street at the Fleet Hospital, Bill and another malaria patient in the unit stowed away with their comrades on the vessel that would take them to their objective — Iwo Jima.
On February 27, 1945, Bill’s platoon was engaged in active operations against the Japanese defenders of the island. They had lost communications with their company and Bill volunteered to accompany their platoon leader to try to re-connect. They worked their way back towards their higher echelon, moving from fighting position to fighting position. At an inopportune moment, they were joined in a foxhole by an artillery shell. Three of the men were killed instantly. Bill was evacuated to a medical facility in the rear but by that afternoon he succumbed to his wounds.
The family did not get confirmation of his death until late in the Spring of 1945. Upon receiving the telegram from the Department of the Navy, my grandfather brought the family together. One of the things he told them was this: “People are going to say things to you about the Japanese. Remember, you don’t hate anyone.”
And a numismatic note. Uncle Bill apparently developed into quite a poker player while he was overseas. He mailed my dad a $5.00 Hawaii overprint note which was part of his poker winnings. My dad folded it neatly and hid it in the nose of a model airplane that was in his room. Unfortunately, at some point, grandma threw the plane away and that $5.00 note went with it.
On March 17, 1944, 20th Century Fox released the film Four Jills in a Jeep starring Martha Raye, Kaye Francis, Carole Landis and Mitzi Mayfair as themselves in the title roles. Betty Grable, Phil Silvers, Jimmy Dorsey and Carmen Miranda also appear in the film (all but Silvers as themselves). The film is a fictionalized account of the four women’s USO tour of the UK and North Africa.
Billing themselves as the Feminine Theatrical Task Force, the women left the United States in October 1942 and spent three months doing Camp Shows in England and Northern Ireland. They then spent three weeks in North Africa, the first USO troupe to perform there.
Carole Landis serialized their adventures in the Saturday Evening Post. Studio execs thought their story would make a great film. Hollywood did what Hollywood does and softened the rough edges of their adventures. They turned what could have been an exciting adventure tale (they experienced air raids in England and were shot at in North Africa) into a sappy romance with too many song and dance numbers. The reviews were not good.
This short snorter was signed by the four actresses. The underlying note is an Algerian 20 franc note from 1941 that would have been in circulation while the performers were on tour. Although they undoubtedly signed short snorters while in North Africa, this one could not have been signed there. Carole Landis signed her married name, Carole Landis Wallace, on the note. She met her husband while the troupe was in England and married him after the tour was over.
May 8, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of V-E Day, the end of World War II in Europe. It also marks the beginning of the occupation of Germany.
International law recognizes the right of an invading country to determine what will pass as legal tender in conquered territory. The domestic currency may remain valid, the currency of the invader may be made valid, the invader may introduce an entirely new currency system or a combination of these may occur. The choice will depend on what the invader’s goals are.
The primary purpose of an occupation currency is to compel the conquered territory to pay for the expense of the occupation. The occupier uses occupation currency to pay for items it requisitions and to pay its occupying troops. The occupier creates this money out of thin air and compels its acceptance. The occupier essentially gets everything for free while maintaining the pretense of paying for it.
Both sides made extensive use of occupation currency in WWII. Japan was the first to use an occupation currency when it introduced military yen in China. The first Allied use of occupation currency was in North Africa where yellow seal US dollars and British Military Authority notes were used with the Operation Torch landings in late 1942.
The occupation of Germany presented a number of challenges when it came to an occupation currency. The western Allies had been able to cooperate with one another on currency matters (although General DeGaulle was difficult when it came to issuing supplemental francs). Money in Germany would have to be coordinated with the Soviet Union.
It was agreed at the Yalta Conference that there would be a single, uniform occupation currency for Germany. While the Soviets were in agreement with this, they refused to accept a US proposal for the US to print all the military marks and supply the finished money to the Soviets. They insisted on printing their own notes for their own needs. When the US insisted on being the sole printer, the Soviets threatened to print their own so the designs would not be uniform.
The US relented. The Soviets requested plates for printing notes from the US. The Treasury Department objected to the President that it was not advisable to provide this to the Soviets. Instead, they were given glass positives of the notes along with a supply of ink and paper. With these they were able to duplicate the design of the notes printed in the US — almost. More on that later.
The decision to allow the Soviets to print their own military marks had long lasting effects. They had no intention of allowing Germany to have a quick economic recovery and controlling the currency was one way to do this. While the western Allies looked to have the Reichsbank resume printing notes for its own use, the Soviets refused to allow this to happen. The Soviets printed hundreds of millions of military mark notes and used them to pay their own troops several months of back pay.
Black marketing was rampant as free-spending Russian troops flooded the German economy with military marks and were willing to pay exorbitant prices for consumer goods and cigarettes. Western Allied soldiers got in on the racket by making goods available to their Russian counterparts and converting the military marks to their own currencies at the official exchange rate of ten reichsmarks to a dollar. It took the United States almost two years to come up with a method to get currency matters under control when Military Payment Certificates were issued in September 1946.
Military marks were printed in denominations of 50 pfennig, 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 1,000 marks. The western Allies did not issue the 1,000 mark note but the Soviets did. In the US, the notes were printed by the Forbes Lithograph Company of Boston. They are not engraved or intaglio printed but were lithographed. There are no security features in the printing or paper.
The Soviet printed notes were identical except for two small differences. The Forbes printed notes have a small, stylized letter “f” for Forbes hidden in the design that does not appear on the Soviet notes. The serial numbers for the Soviet printed notes are eight digits long preceded by a dash. They included the dash because the examples they were provided by the US were replacement notes that included the dash. Regular US printed notes had nine digit serial numbers without the dash.
When the serial numbers of the Soviet notes exceeded 99999999, they dropped the dash and added a ninth digit. Nine digit Soviet notes can be distinguished from the US printed nine digit notes by the lack of the Forbes “f”. Another diagnostic of the Soviet printed notes is a gap that appears between the third and fourth places in the serial number on many notes. The Soviets did not have numbering wheels that could accommodate nine digits so they used two wheels for each number, one with three digits and one with six.
Of the sixteen different types printed (eight denominations printed each by the US and Soviets), the Soviet 50 pfennig note had the smallest print run of approximately 5,000,000 notes. The Soviets apparently did not have much need for a half mark note. By comparison, Forbes printed over 75,000,000 50 pfennig notes.
Despite repeated requests, the Soviets refused to provide data on the number of notes printed or the amount issued.
While military mark notes were intended to be used exclusively by the occupation forces, the inability of the Reichsbank to print its own notes led to it being supplied with military marks for its use. This was possible since the military mark and the reichsmark were at par and neither the Allied Military Government nor any of the Allied governments were responsible for redeeming military marks.
Military marks remained in circulation in Germany until the Currency Reform of 1948 when the reichsmark and the military mark were replaced by the Deutsche mark.
On February 14, 1966, Australians awoke to a whole new world. On that date, the cumbersome £sd system Australians inherited from their colonial founders gave way to the modern and hip dollar and cent.
Australia was not the first nation in modern times to decimalise her currency. That distinction went to South Africa when it introduced the rand as its unit of currency in 1961. New Zealand followed her neighbour in 1967 along with Samoa and Tonga. Fiji switched in 1969. The UK and Ireland finally fell in line in 1971, the last major countries to do so.
The £sd system took its name from the Latin names for the units of currency — Libra (pound), solidi (shilling) and denarii (pence). The system originated in the Roman Empire and was re-introduced to Europe by the Emperor Charlemagne. The pound was divided into twenty shillings of twelve pence each making 240 pence to the pound. The numerical notation of the currency was divided by strokes or dashes — 2/16/8 or 2-16-8 which were read as two pounds, sixteen and eight.
The main reason for conversion was convenience. Aside from tradition, the only real merit to a system based on twelve is that it is equally divisible by 2, 3, 4 and 6. But this was outweighed by the complexity of the system compared to one based on ten.
Decimalisation in Australia was first raised in 1902 when a committee of the first Federal Parliament recommended it. It received further Parliamentary support in 1904 but the government was reluctant to make such a change without a similar move in the UK.
The first official action on decimalization was taken in Australia in 1959 with the appointment of the Decimal Currency Committee. It was charged with investigating the positives and negatives of converting to a decimal currency system. The Committee reported favourably in 1960 and recommended a unit based on ten shillings divided into one hundred smaller units.
It was estimated that the conversion would cost approximately £30,000,000. It was also estimated that £11,000,000 was lost because of the complexity of the £sd system. The Committee concluded that conversion would pay for itself.
The single largest expenditure for the conversion was the construction of a new mint. Approximately one billion new coins were minted for the conversion. Subsidies were provided to merchants, financial institutions and others that needed to convert equipment to the new system.
It was not until 1963 that the Currency Act was approved to implement decimalisation. It accepted the earlier recommendation of a new unit based on ten shillings or the equivalent of a half pound. It also established February 14, 1966 as the conversion date. The Decimal Currency Board was charged with overseeing the conversion. It was headed by Sir Walter Scott.
The Currency Act of 1963 did not name the new unit of currency. The government took suggestions from the public. Over a thousand different names were proposed. The government initially chose the “royal”. Public support was underwhelming. After further consideration, the dollar was adopted.
New coins and banknotes would be required. The new coinage kept the monarch on the obverse and featured different animals unique to Australia on the reverse. The existing 10 shilling, £1, £5 and £10 notes were replaced by notes of $1.00, $2.00, $10.00 and $20.00 with new designs but maintaining the same colour scheme.
Consistency was necessary because the old and the new were to circulate side by side for two years after conversion. £sd coins and notes could be accepted in commerce but change was to be given only in dollars and cents.
The government launched a public relations campaign that played on television and radio daily for the two years prior to C-Day. An animated character named Dollar Bill was created as the face of the conversion campaign. The poem that led off this article was written as a way to remember how to convert small amounts.
While large amounts could be converted easily, amounts less than a shilling would not. Since there were 120 pence in 10 shillings but only 100 cents to a dollar, each cent was equal to 1.2 pence. The poem expressed how these small amounts were converted. One and two pence were equivalent to one and two cents. Three pence through nine pence drop one number so three pence was also converted as two cents, four pence as three cents, etc. Ten pence converted as eight cents and eleven pence as nine cents.
During the two year run up to C-day training materials were provided to the public. The Decimal Currency Board created pamphlets and brochures explaining the conversion. Private industry created play money and games to help people get familiar with the new notes and coins and converting prices from the old system tot he new.
C-day went off smoothly. Banks closed February 10, 1966 to revamp their processes and equipment. Long lines were anticipated at banks but the crowds were not much larger than the holiday rush according to one banker. The ease with which such a large logistical exercise was carried out is a testament to the years of planning and forethought that went into the conversion.
As the Great Depression wore on into the early 1930s various schemes were developed to try to move the economy forward. High unemployment, failing banks and the stock market collapse ground the economy to a halt and money had become scarce. Commerce virtually ceased nationwide when President Roosevelt ordered all banks closed on March 6, 1933.
Local governments were squeezed by two factors. First, cash was tied up in closed banks. Second, tax collections dropped off as it became impossible for people and businesses to pay them. There were several types of municipal scrip including tax anticipation notes, certificates of indebtedness, payment orders and relief orders. Low denomination municipal bonds also were circulated.
The City of De Pere, Wisconsin was forced to issue payment orders to meet payroll and other city expenses because most of the City’s cash was held in accounts at banks that were closed by the moratorium. In March 1933, the city had approximately $500.00 in cash available and immediate payables in excess of $3,000.00. Over $70,000.00 of the city’s money was tied up in closed banks.
The first issue of scrip was authorized in March and issued on April 19, 1933. This first issue totaled $20,000.00 and consisted of 12,000 $1.00 notes, 1,000 $5.00 notes and 300 $10.00 notes. The second issue was dated May 20, 1933 and the final issue was dated June 14, 1933. A total of $55,000.00 was issued.
The serial number break down is as follows:
April 19, 1933
1 – 12000
12001 – 13000
13001 – 13300
May 20, 1933
13301 – 17300
17301 – 18300
18301 – 19300
June 14, 1933
19301 – 23300
23301 – 24300
24300 – 25000
City merchants initially balked at the idea of accepting the scrip. The merchants were concerned that it would not be accepted by their suppliers. They also demanded that the scrip bear interest. The merchants’ concerns were allayed when the suppliers indicated a willingness to accept partial payments in scrip and the City agreed to the scrip bearing 4% interest.
The scrip was payable by the City no later than March 15, 1934 and was accepted in payment of taxes and other obligations due the City. It was subject to being called in by the City if adequate funds were available for redemption prior to this date. The issued scrip was redeemed on the call of the city.
Scrip not turned in by the redemption date ceased earning interest as of that date. Redemption began on May 18, 1933 when $3,000.00 was called in. Redemption calls were done by serial number prior to the final redemption on March 15, 1934 A total of $54,974.00 was redeemed through 1939.
Circulation of the scrip was explained in the April 13, 1933 edition of the De Pere Journal-Democrat:
. . . All city officials, employees, teachers, laborers and business men who have money coming from the city will be given scrip in payment for their services and they, in turn, will pass it to whoever will take it. As this new circulating medium draws 4 per cent interest it is believed it will be accepted gladly when it is known that it is backed by the city’s credit. Practically all the scrip will be circulated in De Pere.
Scrip will be returned in change by merchants except that for amounts under $1.00, silver change will be given customers. The merchants have decided to have a sufficient amount of $1.00 scrip bills on hand to return scrip in change for scrip, and also currency for currency. The scrip will have the same purchasing power as all other kinds of money or checks. The name “De Pere” will be plainly printed upon the bills.
The scrip was printed by the Todd Company of Rochester, New York who charged the City $162.27 for each issue printed. The specifications for the printing of the scrip were discussed in an article in the April 20, 1933 edition of the De Pere Journal-Democrat:
Twenty thousand dollars worth of city order scrip, $12,000 in one dollar denomination, $5,000 in fives and $3,000 in tens, was delivered to city officials today by the Todd company of Rochester, N.Y.
Printed on what is called “Protod-Greenbac” safety paper, the scrip is gray and black on its face with green back. On the left the city seal is incorporated in an intricate bank note design. Large “counter” numeral of the denomination is worked into the bank note vignetted border in the upper righthand corner, and smaller corresponding numerals form part of the design above and below the city seal. Lettered in the bank note border at the top are the words “Hold to the light—See Water-mark” and in the bottom border “Genuine only if watermarked Protod-Greenbac.” It bears the signatures of Mayor Rudolph Rupiper; City Clerk R. O. Planert; and City Treasurer Lillian H. Dillon.
It will be easy for you to identify the genuineness of City of De Pere scrip. Remember the gray intricate lacy dot pattern on the face, the green wavy design on the back. And, most important, if on holding the scrip to the light, you find the water-mark Protod-Greenbac, you may be assured that you have genuine scrip.
The city treasurer, Miss Dillon, will be ready Monday to pay city bills in scrip.
One other security feature of the scrip is found in the serial numbers. Each number is preceded by a two letter prefix. The first letter of the prefix is the same as the first letter of the month the scrip is dated – A(pril), M(ay) and J(une). The second letter of the prefix corresponds to the first letter of the denomination – (O)ne, F(ive) and T(en).
Scrip that was redeemed by the city bears a perforated cancellation containing the date. Specimens were made using unnumbered April 19, 1933 pieces by overprinting “SAMPLE – NOT VALID”.
Were it not for the current quarantine I would be spending this weekend in Port Clinton, OH. Port Clinton is a western Lake Erie resort town that has played host since 2000 to the MPCFest. MPCFest is an annual gathering of military numismatists. (MPC is an acronym for Military Payment Certificates which were scrip used in certain overseas US military establishments between 1946 and 1975).
I have given presentations on various topics over the years. The video below is made from the Powerpoint slideshow that I would have presented this year. It is a little more than five minutes long. The slides advance every 19 seconds including the title slide so you do have to wait a little before it starts. You can pause it if you need more time to read the text. Text on some of the slides was cut off during the editing process.
The title – Ein kurzer Saufer – is a loose translation of the English phrase “short snorter”. (I am pretty certain that the literal translation is “a short drunk”.) Short snorters, banknotes signed by servicemembers as souvenirs, were almost exclusively an American tradition. The note discussed in the presentation is one of the few I have seen that has signatures of members of the Axis.
Some of the signatures are light and do not show well in the images but this was the best I could get. There is no sound. I thought of narrating or adding music but felt that silence was best given the subject.