Eric Schena submitted this review of the new book on panic scrip by Neil Shafer and Tom Sheehan. Thanks!
PANIC SCRIP OF 1893, 1907 AND 1914
An Illustrated Catalog of Emergency Monetary Issues
Neil Shafer and Tom Sheehan
Edited by Fred Reed
$75 softcover (7 × 10) 2013
808 photos, appendices, bibliography, index
ISBN 978-0-7864-7577-3 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4766-0570-8
Throughout American history there have been many times of financial crisis and emergency. Many periods of financial stress produced emergency monetary substitutes, some of which are fairly well documented, most notably the "Hard Times", the Civil War, the financial troubles of the 1870s, and the Great Depression. Panic Scrip of 1893, 1907 and 1914 is the much anticipated catalog from Neil Shafer, Tom Sheehan and edited by Fred Reed that attempts to tackle the much less well known and studied crises of 1893, 1907, and 1914 that are equally important to understanding our economic legacy through its fiscal instruments.
Collecting panic scrip from these three periods is a difficult proposition as the issues were never numerous and there are very few issues that can even be remotely considered common. Prior to this book, scant auction records and old economic studies from the times were often all that were available to researchers. This book fills that gap admirably. Panic Scrip includes historical details on the crises, what precipitated them, and the subsequent recovery. It also addresses rarity of almost every issue, both known in numismatic circles, as well as those issues known only through contemporary accounts. Most helpfully, listings where an example is not known are flagged with notations indicating how these issues were uncovered. The book is lavishly illustrated with as many notes as possible.
Part I looks at the Panic of 1893, a period of fiscal crisis that led to the remarkable failure of over 15,000 businesses and more than 500 bank failures. While it took several years to recover from this crash, the emergency scrip from the period is not well known and this is the first attempt at a numismatic compendium of these issues. Some regions were particularly affected by the crisis, in particular areas of the South and the West, and emergency money was circulated to relieve cash shortages and to address back pay.
Part II comprises the various issues of the Panic of 1907 and is also the bulk of the catalog listings. The impact of the Panic of 1907 was felt nationwide and precipitated a period of money shortages impacted the way national bank notes were issued through the Aldrich-Vreeland Act as reflected through the well-known "date back" large size nationals. Less well known in the numismatic community are the hundreds of local and regional emergency notes and clearing house certificates. The variety and scope of these issues, while not at the same level as the later Depression issues, was considerable, and the research gone into this book to catalog these notes is a significant achievement.
Part III is devoted to the financial crisis of 1914, a period that is little studied outside of economic historical circles. While not nearly as well remembered, as Shafer and Sheehan explain, it was from this crisis that gave strength to the brand new Federal Reserve System. These issues are few and far between and represent the transition to a more national banking system under the Federal Reserve. Until I became aware of this book, I was not even aware there were such scrip, so this is much appreciated to see this entry.
The appendices contain a wealth of information found almost nowhere else. There is catalog of related scrip not necessarily tied to these three periods of economic uncertainty, as well as a catalog of contemporaneous satirical issues. In addition, an essay by Loren Gatch addresses how clearing house certificates were used as well as their legality and contains a superb bibliography of many primary sources. Lastly, an article on the fascinating and hitherto undocumented G. B. DeBernardi Labor Exchange scrip by Steven Whitfield provides details on a scrip issue from the late 1890s denominated in "hours" and has until recently been poorly studied.
The index is especially useful for researchers, as it not only lists the issuer, but all participating banks in the case of clearing houses. For instance, the index will have an entry for the "Associated Banks of Lynchburg, Virginia", but also individual entries for its six member banks.
There are only two minor things that I would have loved to have seen: a hardcover edition and perhaps a color section. Many of these notes were very colorful and ornately designed and would have been neat to have a gallery of such examples. That said, this is a minor quibble considering the wealth of information that is contained in the book and one I fully understand given the expense of producing such a book.
Panic Scrip of 1893, 1907 and 1914 joins its predecessor, Standard Catalog of Depression Scrip of the United States, as the authoritative work on the subject matter. As a researcher on Mid-Atlantic monies, I know this certainly inspired me to delve deeper into the various issues from my home region and shine a light on these otherwise overlooked notes. I would encourage anyone with a passing interest in these pieces of our numismatic heritage to add this book to their library.
I'll add another "ditto" to this review; I doubt I could have written any better a review than Eric has. I, too, greatly appreciate the wealth of information presented here in a very compact and useable form. The book has been decades in the making, and for a relative pittance, today's collectors can now access troves of information on these enigmatic issues in one handy volume.
I collected clearing house certificates for many years and was pleased to be able to contribute to the book. I specialized in 1907 Pittsburgh notes and thought I had the market cornered; yet that section of the catalog is brimming with issues that I never had and have never seen. These are all generally rare today, making the book the only place many of these are recorded in the literature.
As a bibliophile I will echo Eric's disappointment at not having a hardcover edition - all the better to withstand the years of use this volume will see in my library. I am also disappointed that the images are only in black and white. However, this is more a reflection on the raised expectations of today's numismatists in a world where the cost of color printing has dropped considerably and full color auction catalogs are commonplace.
My only other disappointment is not fault of the book's authors. As a catalog, its purpose is to catalog the known specimens; more information about the history behind individual issues is beyond the scope of the book. As a collector I was hoping to learn more about the Labor Exchange notes in the Appendix, and Steve Whitfield's essay only scratched the surface. But his catalog is a very useful starting point, and as we have seen with Eric, the book is already becoming a jumping-off point for the next generation of researchers into this important and fascinating area of U.S. financial and numismatic history. Congratulations to the authors and Editor Fred Reed for creating an indispensable volume for American numismatic libraries.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NEW BOOK: PANIC SCRIP OF 1893, 1907 AND 1914
Wayne Homren, Editor
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