Tenderized

It’s the holiday weekend coming up, right? You’ve been quietly waiting until we were ready to take in books again. But you realized you have company coming for the Labor Day festivities and decided to bring ‘em over anyhow. You CAN’T let these people see the house looking as if you READ, after all.

(I don’t understand why you let them in the house at all: this is a holiday to go outside to grill and watch fireworks, not sit indoors and critique the housekeeping. If it rains, go to the mall. That’s what malls are FOR.)

It isn’t that I don’t like what you brought. Cookbooks and art books have been arriving steadily, and there have been some deluxe naughty books of the 1920s. (The kind Great-Grandpa bought and put on the shelves because the spines looked so impressive, and then forgot about until he wondered what the grandchildren were giggling about in the parlor.) I like the posters, and we have all admired the blinking wall dreydel and the Barrel of Monkeys keychain.

But I had the most fun, I think, with the box of money. It’s the kind of fun that never gets old. If you want to send me something for my birthday and can’t think of anything original, I wouldn’t complain if you sent me a box of money. It’s like rhubarb meringue pie: I won’t whine because I got the same thing last year.

Very little in the box was from the United States: four pennies. You may have a box like this at home yourself: any exotic money you find in a book or bring home from a vacation in deepest, darkest Peru goes into the box. And you forget about it until the day you have to clean out for the Labor Day crowd.

There were copper coins (one from 1856), one bronze coin (I didn’t even know they made bronze coins), several silver ones, including a few smaller than a dime, and one or two experimental plastic coins. We had currency from a number of countries which don’t exist any more and a few which were just getting started. The collector picked up one of the last Indian head pennies, and one of the first Canadian small pennies. (Very collectible since Canada has given up the penny.) A few of these bills came from the Confederate States of America, and are probably now worth their weight in Dixie Cups.

And there were, as frequently there are, a lot of examples of Notgeld. This is “emergency money” printed in Europe between the World Wars. The official money had run out, so to keep commerce going, banks or towns or villages or, in one case, a men’s clothing store, printed their own cash. The thing about these is that almost as soon as they were printed, people started collecting them. The banks, towns, and stores figured this out and started to print special Collectible Sets. Selling people money they’re never going to spend is one way to keep the economy rolling.

How many different designs were there? As well ask how many different postcards have been printed. Are they worth money? Well, some are worth about as much as they were worth at the time. (Sometimes the value expired before the printing was finished.) A few were done by very collectible artists, and some were done to commemorate special events. Some are very pretty. And most of the ones you find are in excellent condition because they didn’t stay in circulation long, if they ever got into circulation to begin with. They are jolly to look at (people tend not to print depressing pictures on money) and since there is an infinite variety of designs, villages, and denominations to hunt for, the chances that you will ever run out of new ones to collect are pretty slim.

And if you ever get tired of them, you can pack them up and send them to a deserving Book Fair manager. (AFTER Labor Day, please.)

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