The Gold and Silver Mine – Scrip played key role during Depression

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A weekly column dedicated to “digging out” current information about precious metals, coins and other numismatics.

A customer came into my shop over the weekend to show me a piece of currency that was issued by Atlantic County in 1934 and bore a denomination of $10. Having never seen such an item, he was curious as to what it was and if it had any value. What he found was a piece of Depression scrip (which, in addition to being from Atlantic County, was specifically for use in Longport, since that city’s name was also printed on the note).

During the Depression, jobs were scarce, and money to pay the workers even scarcer. Many municipalities resorted to printing and issuing their own money, or scrip, as it was known. Instead of paying municipal employees with United States currency, the employees were paid in scrip, which in turn could be used to pay merchants in that municipality for purchases the employees made such as food, clothing etc. The merchants then could use the scrip in payment for their municipal taxes.

The result was that no real money changed hands. The employees got something they could use to buy goods within their town, the merchants could pay their taxes without using hard cash, and the city received the services they needed from the employees.

This arrangement worked well until merchants accumulated more scrip than they had taxes to pay. As a result, the merchants would not accept the scrip at face value, instead discounting the amount by up to 75 percent of the face value.

Depression scrip for the most part is not very valuable, as it is not uncommon for large quantities to be found when cleaning out storage. A large quantity of Pleasantville depression scrip was discovered in the 1960s when the old fire hall was being cleaned.

It’s interesting when reviewing cancelled scrip to see the names of the companies that redeemed them – hotels and businesses that were big in their time, but no longer exist.

A historical footnote to the Atlantic County scrip: they all bear the printed signature of Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, the real-life character the Boardwalk Empire TV series is modeled after.

Douglas Keefe is the president of Beachcomber Coins, Inc. He and his wife Linda operate Beachcomber Coins and Collectibles in the Shore Mall as well as satellite offices in Brigantine and Absecon. Between them they have over 70 years experience in the coin and precious metals business. They are members of The American Numismatic Association, The Industry Council of Tangible Assets, The Numismatic Guarantee Corporation, The Certified Coin Exchange and the Professional Coin Grading Service.


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