April 11, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the passing of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. While his health had been declining, his death at the age of 63 from a stroke was a shock to most Americans. His sudden death at the beginning of his fourth term and in the middle of World War II led to an outpouring of memorial tributes. The first numismatic tribute to President Roosevelt was the $200.00 United States Savings Bond.
The $200.00 bond was a new denomination for a savings bond. The Treasury Department announced the new value in July 1945. It was to be introduced with the Victory Loan Drive on October 29, 1945.
Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr. resigned his office on July 22, 1945 just after production of the plates for the new bond had begun. Despite the fact that there was sufficient time to replace his signature with that of the incoming Secretary Frederick Vinson before the bonds were to be issued, Morgenthau’s signature appears on the initial print run.
Another peculiarity of the Morgenthau signature $200.00 bond is the “WAR SAVINGS BOND” legend that appears on the face. The font and size of this legend are noticeably different than any other type small size war bond. The legend is in a very small, block face font on the $200.00 bond while the other bonds have a large font with serifs..
It is probable that the “War Savings Bond” legend on the Morgenthau signature bonds was not as originally intended. Secretary Vinson announced in August 1945 that as of that date bonds were no longer going to be officially called “United States War Savings Bonds” and would be called “United States Savings Bonds.” It is likely that both the Morgenthau signature and the “War Savings Bond” legend were used on the initial run of the $200.00 bond because of President Roosevelt’s connection to Secretary Morgenthau and the war.
The letter “R” was chosen as the serial number prefix for the $200.00 bond as it was the initial of the late president’s last name. The convention had been to use the Roman numeral of the denomination for the prefix letter (X for the $10.00, L for the $50.00) except for the $25.00 which used the letter Q. Q and R were used as the prefixes for the $25.00 and $200.00 bonds because those Roman numerals would be represented by more than one character but treasury only allowed for a one-character prefix. The R-prefix was maintained for the $200.00 into Series EE even though President Roosevelt was moved to the $50.00 bond.
According to the records of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing 1,250,000 $200.00 War Savings Bonds with Secretary Morgenthau’s signature were printed. This is the shortest print run of the small-size War Bonds. Only a small handful have been observed in the collector’s market.