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Fractional Currency

A desperate shortage of coinage during the American Civil War caused the Federal Government to act quickly to come up with something viable to make change for a dollar. Small pieces of currency worth less than a dollar became the answer. Known as “shin plasters,” fractional currency was issued in five different printings from 1862 until 1876, when coin production finally caught up with the demand and the notes were no longer necessary.

Fractional currency was made in denominations ranging from the cost of a postage stamp at three cents up to a half dollar note that would cleanly break a dollar into two without the need of coins. Each of the five different printings are distinguishable from one another by not only their design, but by the fact that with each subsequent issue, additional counterfeiting measures were taken to keep the public honest with the notes. In fact, late in the program posters were issued that had the images of all the notes issued to date in the shape of a shield. People could refer to their local “currency shield” to see the design and print quality of the real notes. Today, these shields are scarce and very highly popular.

While many of these notes are still available enough to make them collectible on a budget, some of the notes have become quite scarce in higher grades. Modern Coin Mart carries a wide assortment of these notes in grades that are affordable to the beginner collector to the more valuable pieces for the advanced collector.


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