Reference Items
Currency
Civil War Tokens

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With the onset of war in 1861, the American public lost confidence in paper currency and began hoarding coins. The resulting shortages of coinage forced merchants to use small cent-size tokens in their place. Some stores produced custom "store cards" with their name, location, and business slogan. Others utilized less expensive "stock" tokens which were more readily available.

Many of these tokens bore interesting patriotic designs and inscriptions, indicative of the sentiments of the day, such as "Union Forever, or "No Compromise With Traitors! A few were struck with the famous statement by Treasury Secretary John A. Dix regarding threats by citizens in New Orleans to take down the U.S. flag of a revenue cutter, "If Any Man Attempts To Tear It Down, Shoot Him On The Spot!

Eventually, the federal government decided that the circulation of millions of privately issued Civil War tokens posed a bit of a problem, and they were outlawed by an act of Congress on April 22, 1864. Today, the wide diversity of design makes these Civil War tokens an interesting and affordable area of collecting.

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-168

$1 Legal Tender Note - a.k.a. "Greenback"

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Before 1861, all paper money circulating in the U.S. was issued by private banks chartered by the various states. Many problems were associated with the soundness of this currency (see "broken banknotes elsewhere in this section.)

The start of the Civil War found the nation in a precarious position for an acceptable currency. Public hoarding of coinage or "hard currency" made it quite scarce. In response, under the guidance of Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, the first paper money backed by the United States government was issued in 1861. These notes were payable to the bearer on demand, exchangeable for hard currency and were referred to as "Demand Notes." They were issued in denominations of $5.00, $10.00 and $20.00. But the public soon began to exercise their right of "demand" as promised on the notes, and exchanged them for gold from the government coffers. Not many demand notes were issued and most that went into public hands were redeemed and taken from circulation so few examples survive today.

As the government recognized that the federal stockpile of gold could not survive the public's demand, a new item of currency termed the "United States Note" quickly replaced the Demand Notes in 1862 and was issued August 1st. These are also known as "Legal Tender Notes" and were legal tender for all debts, public and private. Their issue added denominations of $1, $50 and $100. These notes, (the $1 proudly bearing the image of Secretary Chase) were issued against, and earmarked for the permanent gold fund held in the treasury always maintained at $346,861,016.00.

These early notes were the first U.S. currency to receive engraving on both sides of the note, spawning the name "Greenbacks".

Member - John Beckendorf
Item #: CIV-154

Fractional Currency

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Civil War Fractional Currency At the outset of the Civil War coins were being hoarded for their metallic value and quickly disappeared from circulation. For change, some merchants issued credits slips, while a variety of other alternate substitutions were devised. Among these were postage stamps that were traded for change.

Stamps were a convenient and logical substitute, but still not perfect as they stuck to each other and to everything else. In some cases stamps were placed in clear marked envelopes. Some merchants encased stamps in a metal disc with a piece of clear mica over the face of the stamp and with an advertisement on the metal back. As enormous quantities were needed, the supply of stamps was soon exhausted.

In the course of these events, small paper notes in simulation of the current postage stamps, and in convenient size and in denominations of 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents and 50 cents were issued. These first issues were called Postage Currency and the notes were redeemable for stamps. Pictured here are examples of the First Issue of 21 August 1862.

Member - John Beckendorf
Item #: CIV-153

75 CSA Small Change Script

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Denomination of 75, issued by the private firm of Columbus Life and General Insurance Company of Columbus, Mississippi in 1864. Small change script notes were issued by private companies to augment the small change notes (only in denominations up to the amount of 50) issued by the Confederacy. Note also that the script note was printed late in the war, when paper was in very short supply in the South. The paper is recycled with the former printing still visible on the reverse.

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-130

Confederate $100 note

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1861 Confederate $100 Note. The central vignette is of slaves loading bales of cotton. Sailor standing at lower left. Plain reverse. Bold ink signatures of R.J. Delony for Register (left) and J. W. Jones for Treasurer (right). This is an example of a difficult to locate Hoyer and Ludwig issue, especially in this grade.  This note grades gem uncirculated with only slightly tight upper margins. One small age spot exists just above the right "C" but is not distracting. Well inked with notable detail and clarity. There are no signs of handling, no folds. Small crimp at middle right margin which existed in the paper stock prior to printing. A scarce and early 1861 issue.

The printing partnership of Ludwig & Hoyer worked out of Richmond, Virginia. Their print contracts also included local scrip and Virginia banknotes. Their last major printing was this issue in 1861 and the partnership dissolved in 1865.


Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-129

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