TREASURES FROM THE BELHAVEN MUSEUM

People can never seem to get enough money. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who would turn down some if it were a gift. Yet, besides its monetary value, the history of a country can often be traced as easily by an analysis of its currency as by a scrutiny of its official historical records.

The museum's display of antique paper money includes $20, $50 and $100 bills issued by the Confederate States of America during the "recent unpleasantness." After a long period of time when they were useful only for their inherent value as kindling or insulation, CSA notes have now become worth more than their face value as collectibles. (It's enough to make even a carpetbagger shed a tear.)

In the Nineteenth Century, local banks often issued their own currency instead of the federal reserve notes with which we are all familiar. The Bank of Cape Fear, for example, issued notes in the now-unusual denominations of $3 and $4. The states of Virginia and Georgia are represented by their own $10 bills.

Perhaps the oddest type of money on display is United States "fractional currency." The museum's examples are in the amounts of 3, 5 and 10 cents. They measure a mere 2 by 3 inches in size, making them "fractional" in size as well as denomination. Today, the use of paper currency for such small amounts seems ludicrous. Of course, even 60 years ago, a farm worker was happy with 25 cents a day as compensation for services rendered. That was when "dime stores" actually carried items for ten cents. (Nowadays, you can find the same items in "dollar stores.")

Come and see this piece of history and others in "Granny's Attic," the Belhaven Memorial Museum.

Belhaven Treasure #24

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Diane K. Mason, HTML Editor 1998