During the American Civil War metals like gold, silver and copper were very scarce. Coins were in severe shortage. Much of the public were using stamps in lieu of change due to a severe shortage of coins. This caused troubles for the post office as money is a dirty substance and stamps being exchanged as currency became soiled. The post office was reluctant to accept these damaged stamps as postage or issue refunds.
In 1862, President Lincoln and Congress approved the Postage Currency Act on July 17, 1862. The 1st Issues became known as Postage Stamp Currency because they bore facsimiles of the then current 5 and 10 cent postage stamps. The series issued of Postage Currency were never legal tender but could be exchanged for United States Notes in $5 lots and receivable in payment of all dues to the United States, up to $5. Postage Stamp Currency should not be confused with Postal Notes which were issued between 1883 and 1894.
Fractional currency notes were issued from August 21, 1862 through February 15, 1876. In total there were 24 fractional notes issued. The first series consists of 4 denominations: 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents. In 1863, it was decided that the first series of fractional currency was too easy to counterfeit. New notes were designed. The new Fractional Currency notes were different from the 1862 Postage Currency issues. They were more colorful with printing on the reverse.
To help keep track of valid fractional currency, in 1867, the U.S. Treasury began selling Fractional Currency Shields as anti-counterfeiting devices. Banks were able to acquire a shield for $4.50(about $100 in 2009 currency after adjusting for inflation). Three shield colors were produced: gray, pink and green. Although there were 4,500 shields produced, there are only an estimated 200-400 gray shields, 20-25 pink shields and approximately 10-14 green shields remaining. Each currency shield contained 39 uniface specimens (20 fronts, 19 backs) of the fractional currency from the first three issues. Viewing the sell prices from Heritage Auctions and other sites, prices of $3,000-$7,000 seem typical for an original Fractional Shield.
Pictured below is a replica poster of the U.S. Fractional Shield made by the American Numismatic Association Museum.
This 20 inch wide by 28 inch long poster is available in our store here: Fractional Posters
Posted under Uncategorized
This post was written by nick on November 19, 2009