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  • Writer's pictureDouglas Keefe

Notes With Names

The Gold and Silver Mine

By: Douglas Keefe

People have a habit of assigning nick names to things because of their appearance or use, and our currency has had its’ share of examples. Something I remember during the 1950’s and 1960’s was the reference to $2 bills as “race track money” because the bet on horses at race tracks was $2 per race and for the daily double. I remember working as a cashier in the ACME market during the summer in the early 1960’s, when the Atlantic City Race Track was in operation. I would receive more $2 bills in payment then any other time. And they were a pain in the neck because there were only slots in the cash registers for $1, $5, $10 and $20 bills (we didn’t take anything over a $20 bill back then), so the problem was where to put them, typically under the $1’s or $5’s.

Once the size or our currency went from large to small in 1928, the old, larger notes were given the nickname “horse blankets”. Some individual older notes were given names because of their appearance, for example the series 1923 $5 Silver Certificate featuring Abe Lincoln within a circle quickly became known as the “porthole note” because it looked like Abe was looking out of a porthole of a ship. There are others, but one I find interesting, which I just read a full description about, is the note called the “Tombstone note”. This is what I learned.

The office of vice president has been referred to as the Rodney Dangerfield of political posts, he gets no respect, but is expected to assume the position of president should the elected president die in office, resign or be removed from office. How often do you see Mike Pence, Trumps vice president out and about?

A person whom you have never heard of, Thomas Hendricks, in addition to other offices he held, was a member of the house of the House of Representatives, a U.S Senator and governor of Indiana, and was selected to run as vice president on the Democrat ticket twice, first in 1876 with Samuel Tilden who lost to Republican Rutherford Hayes (Tilden won the popular vote but Hayes won the Electoral vote – sound familiar?).

He ran again as the vice president candidate in 1884 with Grover Cleveland and the second time was the charm. However, he only spent 8 months in office, suddenly dying on November 25, 1885.

At that time there was no mechanism to appoint a new vice president as does currently exist under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing was preparing a new $10 Silver Certificate and Hendricks was chosen to be pictured on the new bill. There has been a rule that no living person is to be depicted in our currency or coinage, so I guess since he was recently deceased, he was the choice to appear on the new note. The design was released to the public on the series 1886 $10 bill with a engraving of Hendricks framed with straight lines on the sides and bottom and a curved top, an uncanny if not deliberate resemblance of a tombstone. Hence the macabre nickname.

As with all currency from the 1800’s and early 1900’s this note is very popular with collectors and will start in price from $500 and up. Not bad for a “dead” issue.


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