The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 17, Number 20, May 11, 2014, Article 32


Neil Shafer's collection of "Money of the People" highlights the June 2014 Lyn Knight Memphis paper money auction. Neil kindly provided the following background. Thanks! -Editor

Throughout recorded history, civilizations have invented ways of being able to carry on normal business relationships through the use of an agreed upon means of value exchange. In most cases this value exchange has been through a medium we call money. There is always barter as well, but equalization of value can become difficult. Money, on the other hand, has the same value to all participants in whatever transactions are taking place.

The world has had many periods of local and global turbulence. One often seen result of such activity is a lack of a consistent supply of money, with the resultant difficulties of maintaining social as well as economic balance. When a currency imbalance occurs, quite often some local authority will step in and attempt to alleviate the monetary situation with some sort of locally sponsored issue in the form of a token coinage and/or an interim printing of a substitute paper currency. More often than not, this interim issue will be paper since it is a lot easier and faster to print a note than prepare a die to strike a coin or token.

The axiom I have often promulgated is a simple statement of fact: whenever a government fails to provide enough money to allow normal business activity to proceed, the people will step in and make their own. It seems that in every corner of the world there was some sort of circumstance that has brought out the need for an issue of privately sponsored paper money. A number of countries have had dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of such notes, according to the situations involved.

Issues made under circumstances as outlined above are truly Money of the People, and that has been the primary focus of my interest and involvement with the subject. Such locally produced issues would of necessity be accepted only by businesses or individuals in the affected areas. These are the pieces whose issuers say to the officials, ‘We need these notes and we will use them regardless of the current state of affairs within the government.” Issues falling into this category are at the very core of my interest just because they stem from the common people who need to do business irrespective of conditions surrounding them.

A very large percentage of these local and private notes exist because of some social disturbances. Chief among these are revolution (more of an internal war) and especially the huge upheavals caused by the worldwide conflicts. Ramifications of these activities are many and varied, from forcing a rise in bullion price or an actual shortage of metal for coin production to the inability to supply paper currency through the usual channels of distribution.

There are other kinds of local notes, those made either for convenience or as a means of retaining power over a certain segment of the population. By this I mean various paper money issues created because of a strictly local need (as with a hospital in some remote location) or some scrip issued by large farms or haciendas that maintained their own shops where only their own money could be spent. In effect, those individuals receiving such private notes as pay were forced to use them in company stores, since no other place would accept that company’s scrip issue. While I feel these kinds of notes have a place as well in my collection, I am fully aware that the reasons for their existence are not the same as with notes described previously.

Yet another offshoot of the private/local paper money scene is the collecting of certain kinds of government-sponsored issues that have a limited circulation. Examples of such notes would include the leprosarium pieces from Venezuela, the NKVD camp issues from Soviet Russia, and the sets of tourist and camp notes from Yugoslavia dated 1951. In short, the interest includes anything from anyplace that is out of the ordinary.

Seeking notes for this collection has had more than its share of asking, searching dealers’ stocks, finding other collectors willing to trade or sell, monitoring auctions where some amazing offerings will show up at times, and just being in the right place at the right time. I am convinced that luck plays a significant part of building any specialized collection, and so it is with this one as well. I will cover some of the more significant pieces that I have enjoyed the most.

The catalog isn't online yet, but some examples are illustrated in Lyn Knight's ad in this issue. -Editor

Neil adds:

The two items I'd like to highlight are, first, siege of Leyden 1574 round die-struck paper, the first paper money of Europe. I would add the term "inadvertent paper money" to this piece, as while it is money made of paper, it is not paper currency as we understand it.

The second piece I would like to highlight is a 1-Ruble note issued in Harbin, China by a Chinese merchant named Vian Fa-chen. Its text is all in Russian; time of issue ca. 1919. There are several denominations with similar design. Such store issues are extremely popular with both Chinese and Russian collectors, plus the fact that they are also extremely difficult to locate. The auction will contain representatives from three such stores in Harbin and one similar store operated by a Japanese businessman in Nikolaevsk-on-Amur.

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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