Well, George, We Knocked the Bastard Off.

The southern side of Mount Everest on a five rupee note from Nepal.

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.

The northern view of Mount Everest on the back of a Chinese ten yuan note.

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 on the face of the New Zealand $5.00 note.

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.

“You Don’t Hate Anyone.”

Bronze Star, Asia-Pacific Campaign Medal and WWII Victory Medal awarded to Cpl. William Edward Downey

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.

1943 Bill and Gerald
My dad, Gerald Downey, and his brother, William Downey, in LaCrosse, WI in 1943.

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.

William E Downey WWII South Pacific
William Downey somewhere in the Pacific.

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.

USMC Casualty Card for Cpl. William Edward Downey.

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.

Purple Heart to Cpl. William Edward Downey.

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.

How Many Jills In a Jeep?

Publicity still from Four Jills in a Jeep with Martha Raye, Phil Silvers, Kaye Francis, Carole Landis and Mitzi Mayfair,

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.

AMC Marks

Placard in English and German identifying Allied Military Marks as legal tender in Germany.

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.

German occupation note for 50 reichsmarks issued by the Reichskreditkassen (Government Credit Office). The RKK notes were used by the Germans from France to the Balkans. They were worthless in Germany.

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.

Russian printed 50 pfennig note (left) and a US printed replacement. The notes are identical for the Forbes “f” in the scrollwork in the lower right corner on the US printed note (see below).

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.

US printed ten mark note. The Forbes mark is at the bottom of the scrollwork in the upper right corner.

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.

Russian printed 50 mark note. The US Treasury Department bragged that the notes would be almost impossible to counterfeit despite the lack of security features due to the intricacies of the many layers. While counterfeiting was not widespread, the largest counterfeiting operation in Germany was in a UN Displaced Persons Camp

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.

Russian printed 100 mark note. Note the gap in the serial number between the numbers 6 and 7.
The Forbes “f” on the larger notes is on the bottom of the scrollwork in the upper right corner.

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.

Russian printed 1000 mark note used as a short snorter. When this note was signed in February 1946, it had an official exchange value of US$100.00. By this time, currency control regulations prohibited converting marks to dollars at military finance cages.

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.

Dropping £sd Down Under

One and two remain the same,

The only difference is the name,

Three to nine lose one it’s true,

And for the rest you take off two.

Australian Decimal Currency Board

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.

Training check made for tellers at the Bank of New South Wales. It is dated on C-day. The £sd amount has been crossed out and the decimal equivalent written below.

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 last 10 shilling and one pound notes issued in Australia. Decimalisation replaced the pound with the dollar in 1966.

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.

Wallet card showing the £sd to decimal conversion rates.

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.

Educational poster for conversion to the new decimal currency.

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.

Prince Phillip speaking at a lectern with Holt and Menzies seated. Other dignitaries and their wives are also present. Behind them is the main door of the Mint.
Opening of the Royal Australian Mint in February 1965.

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.

Specimen 10 royal note.
Image from the Reserve Bank of Australia.

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.

Film describing the new decimal Australian coinage.
Video from the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

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.

The designs of the first $1.00 and $2.00 notes for Australia. The signatures on these two notes indicate they are not from the first issue. The $1.00 note was replaced by a coin in 1984 and the $2.00 note was replaced in 1988.

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.

Instructional film featuring Dollar Bill made by the Decimal Currency Board.
Video link is from the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

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.

Plastic versions of the decimal coins made by Esso along with a conversion chart.

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.

Commercially made decimal play money. Although the color scheme is correct, the notes are incorrectly one size.

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.

Set of decimal notes produced for the Teller Training Kit for the Bank of New South Wales.

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.

De Pere City Orders of 1933

Close up of the medallion that appears on the face of the City Orders issued by De Pere, Wisconsin in 1933.

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.

Souvenir $1.00 De Pere City Order made from an unissued April 19, 1933 note. The backs on all the notes are blank.

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.

Souvenir $5.00 De Pere City Order. The City Orders were necessary because the municipal funds were held in banks that were closed.

The serial number break down is as follows:

April 19, 19331 – 1200012001 – 1300013001 – 13300
May 20, 193313301 – 1730017301 – 1830018301 – 19300
June 14, 193319301 – 2330023301 – 2430024300 – 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.

Notice in the De Pere Journal-Democrat announcing the redemption of city orders. The serial numbers indicate all the April scrip and the $1.00 notes from May.

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.

Sample scrip printed by the Todd Company touting their Protod-Greenbac line of safety documents.

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).

Redeemed De Pere CIty Order dated May 20, 1933. The cancellation date is February 15, 1934.
Image courtesy Chet Krause.

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”.

A Gallery of Evil

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.

The Roosevelt Memorial Bond

Commercially printed order form for a $200.00 Roosevelt Memorial Bond. The purchase price was 75% of the face value or $150.00 with a 10 year maturity characteristic of all Series E War Savings Bonds.

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.

United States War Savings Bond Series E for $200.00 issued in December 1945. Only 1,250,000 of the bonds were printed.

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.

Privately made FDR memorial band wrapped around a $25.00 Series E War Bond. The Treasury Department permitted commemorative inscriptions on bonds for Pearl Harbor Day, the invasion of Normandy, VE-Day and the Victory Loan. Treasury did not authorize a commemorative inscription for FDR. The bond contains one of the permitted inscriptions for VE-Day at the top identifying it as an “Eisenhower Bond.”

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..

Souvenir handed out by the Comstock Park, MI post office for purchasing a $200.00 bond during the Victory Loan Drive. This souvenir was given out by a number of issuing agents in southeast Michigan for each denomination of bond..

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.

Advertising piece for the Victory Loan Drive promoting raffle for purchasing a $200.00 bond. Bonds were often used as raffle prizes during the war. In this case a new car was being raffled for purchasing a bond.

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.

Series E United States Savings Bond for $200.00 issued in 1960. The letters “RI” beneath the issuing agent information indicates this was a re-issue. The original bond was issued in December 1945. Bonds were re-issued if there was a change in owner or beneficiary. All re-issued bonds came from a Federal Reserve Bank. This piece is interesting as it shows that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was still using old stock of Vinson signature bonds 14 years after he left office. It may not be attractive but with pieces this scarce you take them as you find them.

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.

Don’t Worry

Advertising token from the 1920s bearing the “Emblem of the Don’t Worry Club”.

I was politely taken to task by a reader last week for writing more about paper money than coins. “Isn’t this a numismatic blog?” he queried. After reminding him that paper money is part of the field of numismatics, I then told him: “Don’t worry.” Which brings us to this week’s topic: tokens featuring the emblem of the Don’t Worry Club.

The Don’t Worry Club was the brainchild of Theodore F. Seward of Florida, New York. I(t was originally a religious movement. According to Seward the purpose was to overcome the habit of worrying and to study religious truth from the scientific and practical side. “This truth, when really understood, relieves the mind from anxiety and worry, and thus the movement perpetuates itself.” The precepts of the Club, as envisioned by Seward, are set forth in this excerpt from the December 19, 1897, New York Times:

Contemporary newspaper accounts indicate the Don’t Worry movement spread quickly around the country. It lost some of it religious overtones as it did. It found its biggest champion in E. W. Howe, the publisher of the Atchison Globe. He developed his own set of principles which he set forth in that newspaper in 1901. There are three basic tenets:

There are seventeen corollaries only one of which will be repeated here:

As quickly as the movement spread, so did its detractors. As early as May 1898, newspaper articles appeared ridiculing the Don’t Worry philosophy and referring to it as a fad. Merchants poked fun of it in their advertising copy.

Advertisement in the October 21, 1909 Anaconda (Mont.) Standard.

The Don’t Worry Clubs reached their peak in the 1910s although pockets remained, particularly in the Midwest into the 1930s. At least one club was active in the Eau Claire, Wisconsin area as late as 1949.

What is the numismatic connection? Advertising tokens bearing the purported “Emblem of the Don’t Worry Club” began appearing as early as 1901. They were issued into the 1930s. One side of the token bore the merchant’s advertising. Although there are some variations, the other side featured the legend: “Emblem of the Don’t Worry Club” surrounding a large swastika. Within the arms of the swastika is a wish bone, a four leaf clover and a horseshoe. In the fourth arm are three symbols that have defied explanation.

These symbols all have one thing in common — good luck or good fortune. The token is intended as a good luck charm. Encased cents, which were also popular at this time, also were good luck pieces.

There are no contemporary explanations as to why these symbols are said to be emblematic of the Don’t Worry Club. The few sources make no reference to any symbolism for the group. E. W. Howe’s article specifically indicates that the movement had no symbols, handshakes, signs or initiation. The few modern writers who have discussed the tokens seem to have taken the statement that the tokens bore the emblems of the movement at face value.

I do not think it is that simple. The use of these symbols to represent the Don’t Worry Club appears satirical. Many of the articles that ridicule the movement assert that in order to follow its philosophy a person would have to have nothing but good fortune. Life (even at the turn of the 19th Century) has its share of stressful circumstances. Living it worry-free requires either good luck, ignorance or wanton disregard for ones own lot.

The Don’t Worry Club tokens are a popular collecting field. Hundreds of merchants used them for advertising.

Another example of satirical use of “worry” is found on this 1913 token from Aluminum Sign Company. It tells the holder that they should worry! Look closely at the text on the reverse side that informs the holder that the token and a dime will be good for 10c in trade.

Hey, Where the Women At?

March is Women’s History Month in the United States. As the month draws to a close in 2020, I thought I would highlight women featured on American paper money. Doing so, however, would result in a very short discussion. In the more than 150 years the United States government has issued paper money, a total of two women have graced its notes: Martha Washington and Pocahontas. And only one of those two — Martha Washington — was featured on the face of the note.

Women do not fair much better on American coinage with only three women appearing on regular issue coinage: Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea on dollar coins and Helen Keller on the Alabama entry of the state quarter series.

Since there are no American women on paper money to talk about (I do not have notes with either of these women in my collection), let’s look at some of the women honored on the bank notes of other countries.

Viola Desmond. The Bank of Canada placed Viola Desmond on the $10.00 note in 2018. Desmond was a black civil rights leader and business owner in Nova Scotia. She developed a line of beauty products for black women and opened a beauty school in Nova Scotia specifically for black women. Racial discrimination prevented black women from attending the beauty schools in Nova Scotia. Desmond had to travel to Montreal and the United States for training.

While on a business trip to Sydney, Nova Scotia, in 1946, Desmond was arrested for refusing to leave the whites-only section of a movie theater. She had purchased a balcony seat but moved to the floor because her eyesight was not good. She was arrested, spent twelve hours in jail and paid a fine of $20.00. She fought the case in court. She was prosecuted for tax evasion for only paying the tax on the cheaper balcony seat she purchased and not the tax on the more expensive seat she moved to. The difference in the tax was $.01 She was convicted. Her case received widespread attention in Canada as it was one of the first challenges to that countries Jim Crow attitudes. She died in New York in 1965. She was posthumously pardoned in 2010.

Kate Sheppard. Kate Sheppard appears on the $10.00 note issued by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. She was the foremost promoter of women’s suffrage in New Zealand. After the death of her father in 1862, Sheppard’s mother moved the family to New Zealand from Scotland. She was active in several religious organizations including the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Through the WCTU she presented petitions regarding alcohol matters to Parliament all of which were rejected. She felt that the all-male Parliament would continue to ignore the WCTU as long as women could not vote. In 1892, she presented a petition with 20,000 signatures seeking universal suffrage. It was rejected. A year later when she presented a petition with 30,000 signatures, the New Zealand Parliament approved the bill becoming the first country to have universal suffrage in all elections.

The Mirabal Sisters. Patria, Minerva, María Teresa and Dedé Mirabal were four sisters who actively opposed the regime of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic in the 1950s. On November 25, 1960, Patria, Minerva and María Teresa were assassinated by Trujillo henchmen along with their driver. Their killing sent a shock wave throughout the country and contributed to Trujillo’s assassination six months later. In 1997, the sisters were recognized as national martyrs. In 1999, the United Nations designated the anniversary of their assassination as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Marie Curie. Marie Curie, the physicist and chemist, has the distinction of being the only woman to be honored by being depicted on bank notes from mote than one country. She appeared on notes from Poland, the country of her birth, and France, her adopted country. She is well-known for her pioneering work on radioactivity. Her most noted accomplishment was being awarded the Nobel Prize in both chemistry and physics, the only person to have received the award in more than one discipline.

Greta Garbo. Five of the six current notes issued by the Riksbank in Sweden feature Swedes from the arts and literature. (The only outlier is former UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld on the 1,000 kronor note). The actress Greta Garbo appears on the 100 kronor note.

A country’s paper money is a canvas which can showcase its history, culture, natural resources and personalities. Unfortunately, the innovation in design and subject matter found elsewhere is lacking in the United States.