Some Unlisted New Jersey Depression Scrip
by David D. Gladfelter, NLG
The Monroe Township $5 depression scrip certificate with Roosevelt's portrait 1
Remember when Nova Caesarea "horse head" coppers could be bought for $7.50 each and Civil War tokens cost "2 times rarity"? The former is what I spent for a Maris 48-g in the 1950s and the latter was Ben Odesser's CWT price structure in the 1960s. What kind of exonumia can you get for such prices today?
One such kind is depression scrip, issued by municipalities, boards of education, county governments and private entities to serve as emergency currency during the financial crisis of the Great Depression. Banks had failed, unemployment rose and governments could not collect taxes. The New Jersey Legislature authorized local governments to pass resolutions approving issuance of interest-bearing scrip for use in payment of their obligations. The scrip was made redeemable at a future date, and was accepted in payment of taxes. Some governments canceled the scrip upon redemption and saved it, later to be put on the numismatic market when no longer needed for public purposes. Some of the scrip was printed in quantities larger than needed, so that unissued remainders survived to become available to collectors. Most New Jersey depression scrip issues are plentiful and cheap, but even the scarce issues can be had inexpensively because depression scrip has not yet caught on as a popular field of collecting.
One reason is that publication of reference works on New Jersey depression scrip has been relatively recent. New Jersey was bypassed by Kappen and Mitchell's partly completed 1961 catalog, Depression Scrip of the United States, which only covered states alphabetically from Alabama through Iowa. The first listing of New Jersey's "paper money of the Great Depression" appeared as one chapter in George W. Wait's 1976 book, New Jersey's Money, Wait described 97 different issues (174 different specimens) from 47 different counties and towns, including two printers' samples and eight private issues. This listing was expanded to 147 different issues from 53 issuing entities in Mitchell and Shafer's Standard Catalog of Depression Scrip of the United States (including Canada and Mexico) published in 1988.
These reference works are far from complete, which adds to the interest in depression scrip collecting. New finds are being reported as collecting interest develops. Hoards of previously unknown issues are coming to light as tax collectors of municipalities such as the City of Long Branch empty out their storage files.
A few of these unlisted issues are described herein, with "unofficial" catalog numbers assigned in quotation marks to fit into the Mitchell and Shafer numbering system.
"NJ138" County of Atlantic, February 1, 1934 issue.
Specimens are known in 2 denominations, $1.00 gray-green and $5.00 brown. Old design as on the April 1, 1933 issue, NJ120 (plated). The former has serial letter G and the latter H. Redemption date is December 31, 1938.
"NJ143" County of Atlantic, November 15, 1934 issue.
$1.00 gray. New design as on the October 5, 1933 issue, NJ132 (plated). Serial letter G. Redemption date is December 31, 1938.
"NJ294" County of Cape May, July 15, 1936 issue.
$1.00 blue-gray. Design similar to that on the undated Albert Hand Company issue, NJ290 (plated), with addition of red serial number and date of issue. With imprint of Albert Hand Company. Serial letters NA, the former indicating the 14th issue and the latter the $1.00 denomination. Redemption date "to be fixed by the Board of Chosen Freeholders".
"NJ550.x." Borough of Lodi, later reproductions of 1936 tax anticipation notes.
Frame colors are $5.00 bright green, $10.00 light brown, $15.00 bright blue, $25.00 carmine rose and $50.00 light gray. These reproductions are very difficult to distinguish from the NJ550 "originals" without side by side comparison, but the color shades are definitely different. What gives them away as reproductions are the titles "Borough Clerk" and "Mayor" under the signatures of these officials appearing as part of the color frame, rather than the black central design as on originals. The repros also have irregularities on the bottom or top inner borders, blotches on some of the black lettering and signatures, and look "mushier" than the originals. The occasion for creating reproductions of what are commonly available items is presently unknown (possibly as a souvenir of a local event such as a centennial?), as is the date they were made. Stay tuned to your Jerseyana station.
NOTE: The author has added the following after this article was originally published:
Another way to distinguish the Borough of Lodi originals (NJ550-5.d. et al) from the reproductions (NJ550-5.x. et al) is that the former are on watermarked paper and the latter are on plain paper. The watermark is incomplete and all I have been able to make out is G...T BOND/...COTTON.
"NJ847" City of Pleasantville, October 15, 1934 issue.
25¢ purple. Same design as on the April 1, 1933 issue, NJ840 (plated). Suffix letter K indicating the 11th issue. Redemption date not specified.
"NJ862" City of Pleasantville, December 15, 1936 issue.
$1.00 green. Same design as on the April 1, 1936 issue, NJ860 (plated). Suffix letter Y indicating the 25th issue. Redemption date not specified. The Pleasantville scrip is available in quantity although mostly as unissued remainders. Many new issues remain to be found!
"NJ933" "City of Ventnor City" [sic], May 15, 1935 issue.
$1.00 olive green on gray security paper watermarked PROTOD-GREENBAC, stamped "Sample—Not Valid". With imprint PAT'D-TODD-ROCHESTER, N.Y. Same design as on the March 15, 1934 issue, NJ925 (plated). Redemption date "to be fixed by the Common Council".
"NJ987" Borough of Westville, November 1, 1933 issue.
$1.00 green. Same design as on the September 1, 1933 issue, NJ985 (plated). Serial letter A indicating $1.00 denomination; apparently this new issue continued with serial numbers starting where the earlier numbers left off. Redemption date "to be fixed by the Borough Council".
All of the foregoing issues were found in the ordinary course of collecting depression scrip and without paying a premium for them. The possibility of making new finds should serve to challenge us to collect this type of exonumia and to report new finds as made. As in numismatics generally, it pays to know all you can about your field of collecting, and to keep your eyes open for discoveries!
This article has been reprinted here by permission of David D. Gladfelter, NLG. This article was originally published in Jerseyana, the quarterly newsletter of the New Jersey Exonumia Society.
1 Webmaster's note, the original article as it appeared in Jersyana, included the Mitchell & Shafer
Township of Monroe $1 plate specimen, NJ705-1.b. as the title picture.
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