Mr_Norris_LKNS's Blog

26 Apr 2020

Hawaii Love Note

Paper Money-U.S. | Mr_Norris_LKNS

Thought I'd share my latest find. As many know, one of my favorite topics in numismatics involves items related to the Second World War, particularly money that would have been in circulation during the war, from any country. Some of the most popular wartime numismatic items would be the emergency paper currency issues, particularly the gold seal "North Africa" notes and the reddish-brown seal "Hawaii" notes. I put these descriptions in quotation marks because, although that is how they are commonly known, and indeed were used in those respective locations, these notes saw use in wider ranges than those specific geographic areas.The attached photos are of a 1935-A US One Dollar silver certificate of the Hawaii overprint emergency currency variety, serial number S49597732C. In the blank spaces on either side of President Washington's portrait, someone has inscribed "A Kiss for you Hon - X" and "Loving you always. X" ("X" being a shorthand symbol for a kiss in a love letter; and "hon" being short form for "honey", a common term of endearment). In the blank spaces above and below the Hawaii overprint on the back, the inscription reads "I love you, Hon." and "You are my Sweets".After the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, the US Government was worried that an invasion of Hawaii might be imminent. Being a populous US territory, Hawaii required a significant quantity of US currency for its local economy to function. In addition to the destruction and hardships a Japanese conquest would bring to the locals, another credible concern was that the currency that could be captured by the Japanese could be used against American interests. It was decided to swap out the regular US currency being used there (and in additional territories around the Pacific) for a special issue that could be demonetized (i.e., declared worthless) by our government should a significant amount be captured. These special emergency notes were overprinted with the word "HAWAII" on both the face and the back (see photos) and used a reddish-brown Treasury seal on the face as opposed to the blue seal on regular issue notes. This "brown" seal had been used on other notes, but it was distinctive enough with the "Hawaii" overprint that it made them easily distinguishable among circulating currency. These notes were meant for circulation in designated Pacific theater areas, and not for the mainland US. Conversely, "mainland" currency was recalled in these locations and exchanged for "Hawaii" notes; anyone retaining "mainland" currency in these areas could be considered to be in violation of Federal law. Fortunately, the invasion of Hawaii by Japanese armed forces never materialized, and the devaluation of these notes was never necessary. The issuance of Hawaii notes was discontinued, and regular issues were resumed.The Pearl Harbor attack generated a massive patriotic response among the American people, with many individuals signing up for military service or defense work specifically to avenge their country against Japan. Hundreds of thousands of individuals who may never otherwise have visited Hawaii or other far-flung Pacific territories did so through the performance of their wartime duties. The long distances and fear of the uncertainties of war caused many a young heart to long for some other young heart, with the promise of love's affection upon their return to keep them going. Souvenirs would be collected along their journeys and often sent home to their loved ones. As these travelers went about their daily lives, they encountered strange new currencies. These notes too would end up being sent home as souvenirs, often with a message scrawled across them or in the margins, whether an annotation of how or where it was acquired, or perhaps a more personal note.Perhaps most numismatists with even a passing interest in World War Two are familiar with "short snorter" notes, which took either the form of a single note with a collection of signatures of people met by the bearer, or a string of notes cellophane-taped together in sequence as acquired during the bearer's travels. Also fairly commonly known, although far more widespread in history than World War Two, are "love tokens", or coins which have been defaced and engraved with a name, image, or romantic message as a tangible memento of affection between the giver and its recipient. The Love Token Society defines two requirements: that it be made from a legitimate coin, and that it be engraved by hand [as opposed to commercially produced]. My newly-acquired Hawaii note falls somewhere in between. It is not made from a coin, so by a strict Love Token Society definition it is not a love token; but like a coin, it indeed was originally created as a form of government-issued currency to be used for facilitating commerce, and subsequently modified by a private individual to convey a message of affection to another. Yet it doesn't quite arise to the level of a short snorter, because whoever wrote on it chose not to include the name of either the giver or the recipient. Maybe names were assumed unnecessary, as the sender and recipient were understood to be the same as the sender and recipient of a letter in which the note was included. Or perhaps one or both parties had reasons to keep the nature of their relationship under wraps at the time. Or perhaps at the time it was inscribed the writer wasn't sure of the recipient's proper name due to the whirlwind nature of their romance. Or perhaps the inscriber hadn't narrowed down the choice of recipient to a specific individual!So instead of a love token or a short snorter, I have a love note written on a Hawaii emergency note. Is this a new category of Second World War numismatics? Or just a defaced Hawaii note? It's possible it was inscribed after the war, but due to it being in very nice, lightly circulated condition and fairly clean, I like to think that it was likely a wartime souvenir between two long-distance lovebirds, with the traveler reassuring the recipient that, despite traveling to far-flung exotic and possibly romantic locations, love and affection between them would remain faithful and true... making this the paper currency version of a love token.

08 May 2018

Military Numismatics and the MPC Post-Fest Tour

| Mr_Norris_LKNS

Each spring, a group of military payment certificate (MPC) collectors and experts in military numismatics gather in Port Clinton, Ohio, for MPC Fest. I've been invited for several years now but with family obligations I've not yet been able to attend. Hoping to next year for their 20th Fest.This year, the MPC Fest group decided to do a post-Fest tour of military museums in the region. This was an opportunity for those Festers that had traveled from quite a ways to make double-duty of their travel budgets and take advantage of being here to see some really great museums of military history... some of which, of course, include items of numismatic interest. One of the best military museums in the world is the National Museum of the United States Air Force, located at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. When my son and I found out the MPC Festers were planning to visit it, we thought, well, since we can't make the Fest this weekend, maybe we can meet up with some of them at the NMUSAF instead. So we did.We met with several Festers and a spouse or two that made the trek to the Museum. We already knew Fred Schwan from meeting him at the huge annual D-Day reenactment in Conneaut, Ohio (www.ddayohio.us), but we had not yet met Joe Boling. Fred and Joe co-wrote the book "World War II Remembered: History In Your Hands, A Numismatic Study" (https://www.amazon.com/World-War-II-Remembered-Numismatic/dp/0931960401). We were glad to meet Joe and his wife, along with Bill, Mike, Dave, and Brett (who is involved with the Central States Numismatic Society). We toured around looking at all the amazing aircraft and historic exhibits, which included a couple of notable numismatic items in the WW2 hangar: a long example of a "short snorter" (the type with banknotes from various countries taped together end-to-end), and a display regarding a rather infamous example of another type of short snorter, the type where one would gather signatures of many people on a single note. I say infamous because typically the signatures gathered would be of friends, military unit-mates, or famous figures and celebrities whenever they were encountered. This note had signatures of 25 high-ranking individuals, but not any who the typical US GI would have considered friends. They were the leaders of the Japanese war machine, and the signatures were collected on a post-war 100 yen note by an American guard at the Sugamo Prison, where the accused were being held during their trials for war crimes. Included on the note was the signature of Hideki Tojo, probably the most recognizable Japanese name to the American public at the time aside from Emperor Hirohito. (Hirohito was not put on trial, per an agreement between the Allies and Japan as part of their surrender.) Of those who signed the banknote, a handful ended up being executed (including Tojo), but most served prison terms before being released.Military history and numismatics overlap in many ways. Wars not only cost a country a lot of money to wage, they also have effects on the forms of currency themselves. Coin collectors will encounter these effects sooner or later; whether they realize the connections or not is a matter of how much history the collector knows. Even if history isn't one of your main interests, a knowledge of it helps you understand the changes in coinage and currency that you see as you sort through and collect these items. The disappearance of metals like silver, copper, and nickel from coins and their replacement with metals like zinc, steel, tin, or even ceramic or fibrous materials is often an indication of the toll of wartime material shortages. The changes in national symbols on coins and paper money from certain areas can be indicators of a change in governments effected by war, as nations are conquered and occupied, and then later liberated. This only touches on national currency used by civilian populations. There is an entire subset of numismatics dealing with coins, currency, and other financial items made for the exclusive use of military personnel from various nations: Allied Military Currency (AMC), Military Payment Certificates (MPC), military currency or "canteen money", transfer currency to be used to transfer between war zones, etc... even banknotes included in escape kits for fliers shot down over foreign territories. Wars have affected most American families in that most people had a family member involved in one in some way or another. I had a brother in the Vietnam War, four uncles in WW2, a grandfather in WW1, a direct ancestor in the French and Indian War, and many more relatives in the military from the American Revolution through the Civil War to modern times. Making the connection between wartime numismatics and family history just makes the hobby all that more interesting... at least to my son and me. This is what makes this subset of numismatics so fascinating to many people.The NMUSAF is always a fun place to visit, but this trip we were most happy to be able to talk with these experts and make some new friends.

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