by E.M. Sanchez-Saavedra
Any advertiser knows instinctively that customers will always stop to look at money. In the film comedy ‘Used Cars,’ an unscrupulous dealer attaches a bill to a fishing line and literally trolls a potential buyer into his lot by reeling in the money, with the poor sucker in hot pursuit. During World War II, millions of propaganda leaflets were dropped on enemy territory. One side resembled the local paper money, while the reverse side carried the message. Although Nazi penalties were severe for possessing Allied propaganda, it was virtually impossible to see paper money lying along the road and not pick it up.
Following the U.S. Civil War of 1861-1865, tons of worthless Confederate paper money remained in existence. Some holders bitterly papered their walls with the stuff; others locked it away in the attic, unwilling to get rid of their dreams. Early numismatic dealers purchased it wholesale and sold it as war souvenirs in the North and abroad. Because many Confederate bills were uniface – printed only on one side – canny merchants purchased them in quantity and printed business advertising for about the same cost as doing it on blank paper. The eye-catching designs hooked potential customers who normally threw away handbills unread.
Genuine Confederate money was a non-renewable resource, however. Once the supply dwindled, advertisers lost no time in printing up facsimile bills of more or less authentic appearance to carry their messages. This practice continues to the present day, spurred on by the centennial of the war in 1961 and the current sesquicentennial.
The first bill is a genuine two-dollar note with the wistful ‘Lost Cause’ poem ‘In Memoriam’ printed on the reverse.
The second example is a facsimile, indicated as such, used by ‘Dr. Morse’s Indian Root Pills,’ a patent nostrum produced by W.H. Comstock, Morristown, NY, from the early twentieth century.
The third note is a fairly exact copy of the 1864 issue $500.00 bill, used to tout the City of Fredericksburg during the centennial.
The fourth bill, used by an Atlanta restaurant, has modified the $500.00 denomination into a whopping cool million.
The fifth, a black-and-white representation of a bit of scrip from Petersburg, VA, was created as ‘Mall Money,’ a discount coupon.
In 1954, ‘Cheerios’ breakfast cereal gave away play Confederate money marked in tiny letters “Reprinted in U.S.A. 1954.” A nearly identical set could be purchased separately in novelty stores. This group carried the tiny word ‘FACSIMILE’ at lower-left on the reverses. These reprints continue to surface and are often sold to the unwary as genuine notes, which have increased dramatically in value during the last two decades.
The front and reverse sides of a genuine Confederate twenty-dollar bill and one of these facsimiles are shown to facilitate identification. On the reproduction, the serial numbers and signatures are printed in black, instead of added manually in a rust-colored ink. The quality of the engraving is inferior and washed out. The reverse design and typography is wholly different from the original, in an attempt to distinguish the two. In addition, the paper is a thicker wood-pulp stock, unlike the very flimsy rag paper used in the 1860s.