Mr_Norris_LKNS's Blog

01 Jul 2020

WW2 Numismatics "Top Ten"

Collecting Tips | Mr_Norris_LKNS

Noted numismatic author and specialist Mr. Fred Schwan has frequently listed his favorite Second World War collectible as the common Allied Military Currency (AMC) 2 Franc note. To him, this note represents "history in your hands", as so many of these went with Allied troops on D-Day, to allow a medium of exchange for commerce. These notes are fairly common and can be obtained in excellent condition for very reasonable prices, so it is not their rarity that makes them valuable; it is their connection to a tremendous event in history.

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.

22 May 2018

Elongated Cents: A WW2 "Squishin' Mission"

Exonumia | Mr_Norris_LKNS

Recently some friends visited the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Since that is not very far from us, my son and I met them there. The NMUSAF is a VERY cool museum, especially if you are at all interested in the history of powered flight, military aviation, American history, the space race, etc. It's all fantastic, but I must admit my favorite gallery is still the Second World War gallery. Among the many displays there are a handful scattered around the museum that contain items of numismatic interest. But this past month has been all about the "Memphis Belle", arguably one of the most famous aircraft of WW2, if not US Air Force history. This particular B-17 Flying Fortress is to the Air Force what the flag raised over Mount Suribachi is to the USMC: a symbol of the dedication and great sacrifice leading to ultimate victory over the enemy. "Memphis Belle" just finished up a 13-year tour of duty in the Wright-Patterson AFB restoration hangar, and now sits proudly on display for all to enjoy.In the Museum gift shop, along with several types of "challenge coins" for sale, are three penny press machines, each with four different designs from which to choose. With a US cent and two quarters, you can go home with a neat little souvenir of your visit. Our friends, also being numismatists, decided to do so. They carefully chose pre-1982 US cents, and positioned them so that the date, although squished, would still be visible on the unmarked side of the elongate.In case you weren't aware, in mid-1982 the composition of US cent coins changed from 95% copper/5% zinc to almost the exact inverse: 97.5% zinc, plated with 2.5% copper. While these will work in a penny press, the end result is an elongate with silvery zinc showing through the copper plating. This initially can make the image harder to see; but worse than that, exposed zinc quickly deteriorates. Cents from 1864 to 1962 are bronze: 95% copper, with the remaining 5% a mixture of tin and zinc; these press well, and tone the same over time as an unpressed cent. There are two exceptions to the 1864-1962 bronze composition: the 1943 zinc-plated steel cent, and the 1944-1946 "shell case" cents. Shell case cents had some spent brass cases from military munitions thrown into the mix when melting the metals from which the coin blanks would be made. Many folks don't know about shell case pennies, but even the most casual "wheat cent" collector seems to know about the 1943 steel version. It is therefore likely the most recognizable WW2-era US coin. Coincidentally, 1943 was the year "Memphis Belle" completed her 25th, and last, combat mission.Two of the penny press designs available were of the venerable B-17 bomber and the famed P-51 Mustang fighter. I decided I would not only like to press these images onto pennies, but that I would use pennies with WW2 dates. See the picture. Note that these were pressed onto 1943 steel cents. The quintessential WW2 US bomber and fighter on the quintessential WW2 US coin! I don't know why the B-17 coin didn't roll out as nicely on the edge as the P-51, but I still like it. Although not pictured, I did press these same designs into some 1944 shell case cents also. Maybe the shell cases in those cents were from spent rounds fired by an actual B-17 gunner, or a P-51 pilot! (grin).[UPDATE: I think I've figured out why the B-17 rolls out short... The machine rolls the image left to right. The wing, engine cowlings, and front canopy in the design leave such a mass of metal "un-pressed" near the right end, that it doesn't push enough metal ahead to the right to finish it. I have both full-length and short elongates of this design done on bronze cents, but mostly full length, so the hardness difference between bronze and steel is a likely contributor, along with extreme wear being a possible reason a bronze one came out short. Crank speed might be a factor but I don't know.]Some people may not feel good about "squishing" pennies, like it's destroying coins. I'd agree if these were rarities or mint state coins... but they aren't. "Steelies" and shell case pennies are very common in circulated grades. In fact, most wheat cents are. I'd advise anyone to get familiar with the Red Book before squishing pennies... you wouldn't want to squish a rare variety and potentially deprive the world of a treasure (or yourself of a small fortune). (I carefully checked my 1969-S pennies before squishing XB-70 Valkyries into them...) But think about all the boxes, jars, or jugs of wheat pennies you might have, some of which are pretty scuffed, dinged, worn down, burned, or green, that once you've filled a few Whitman folders with the better ones, you're left with a bunch of "problem pennies". They aren't desirable, but you can't bring yourself to get rid of "because they're wheat pennies". Why not turn them into some cool elongated cent souvenirs? You actually WANT darker brown ones because it makes the image show up better... and unnaturally-toned or oddly-discolored coins can make for some beautiful elongates. Trying to match the imprint with a cent of a date that is significant to the design adds a new layer of fun to it, and makes for an even more interesting collectible.My next "squishin' mission" is to find a beater of a 1903 Indian cent where the date is still clear, because another image choice at the Museum is the Wright Flyer, which flew that year!

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