Thor N. asks: Have you ever heard of postage currency? Receivable at any post office for stamps? The face value is $5 and printed sometime around 1875. Can not find this anywhere. Currency reads as follows on front:
POSTAGE CURRENCY FURNISHED ONLY BY THE ASSISTANT TREASURERS AND DESIGNATED DEPOSITARIES OF THE U.S. RECEIVABLE FOR POSTAGE STAMPS AT ANY U.S. POST OFFICE.
Back side reads: EXCHANGEABLE FOR UNITED STATES NOTES BY ANY ASSISTANT TREASURER OR DESIGNATED US DEPOSITORY IN SUMS NOT LESS THAN FIVE DOLLARS. RECEIVABLE IN PAYMENT OF ALL DUES TO THE U.S. LESS THAN FIVE DOLLARS. ACT APPROVED JULY 17 1862. Can’t seen find out if this thing has any value? Can you help? Thanks
The financial uncertainties at the beginning of the Civil War saw coin hoarding on a massive scale resulting in a shortage of legal tender coins. Trade was severely hampered by the difficulty in making change and it many cases one had to have exact change to make a purchase. Various methods were tried to solve this acute problem. Merchants offered credit slips, tokens and postage stamps in return for change but the public resisted all of these methods.
In 1862, the government stepped in to save the economy from disaster by issuing a series of small paper notes that were the equivalent of coins. At first the paper notes borrowed their designs from postage stamps and so the name “postage currency”. These interesting notes are also called “Fractional currency” since their denominations were less than one dollar.
There are five separate issues of Fractional Currency, three during the Civil War and two issues after. The final issue was in 1874. The issues consisted of the following:
- 1st Issue – 8/21/1862 – in cents: 5, 10, 25 and 50.
- 2nd Issue – 10/10/1863 – in cents: 5,10,25 and 50.
- 3rd Issue – 12/5/1864 – in cents: 3, 5,10,15, 25 and 50
- 4th Issue – 7/14/1869 – in cents:10,15, 25 and 50
- 5th Issue – 2/26/1874 – in cents: 10, 25,50
The “obligation” shows how the fractional notes could be used. They could buy postage, be traded for Legal Tender Notes (note they couldn’t be traded for gold or silver certificates) and they were legal tender up to the amount of $5 worth at a time. Today, examples of all five issues are priced reasonably – from around $20-$50.