National Numismatic CollectionOnline Exhibitions
Where Money and History Meet
Learn more about the National Numismatic Collection (NNC) through online exhibitions about topics such as: Byzantium; the coinage of Spain; he Double Eagle; life in Ancient Greece; the Coins of the Demareteion Master; outstanding U.S. rarities; Russian coins and medals; Native Americans, women, and African–Americans on early United States bank notes; and the evolution of American money.
Legendary Coins & Currency
This exhibition explores rare and historically significant artifacts from the National Numismatic Collection—more than half of which have never been on view, or not for many years. Coins, bills, medals, and captivating oddities—such as pattern designs, fake coins, and homemade clam shell money from the Great Depression—are on display.
"National Numismatic Collection - Online Exhibitions" showing 1 items.
- When the Great Depression and resulting banking crisis hit their community, the residents of the California coastal town of Pismo Beach picked an unusual but logical medium of exchange. The pismo is a species of clam with a very thick shell, then found in large numbers along the California coast and prized as a food.
- A town named after clams suggests an adequate supply of their shells. Perhaps with tongue in cheek, the merchants and officials of Pismo Beach (who were often the same people) decided to make the best of a bad situation, and to make the humble pismo shell into an object of trade. This they did. The Chamber of Commerce and no fewer than eleven merchants issued clamshell scrip. Restwell Cabins issued "notes" in three denominations: twenty-five cents, fifty cents, and one dollar.
- The larger the amount, the larger the shell. The issue may have been partly intended as a spoof, or for sale to tourists, in the manner of German notgeld around 1920. Redemption would never be a problem because collectors would wish to keep such pieces in their cabinets or trade them with their friends. But it was also intended partly as a real, if unique, circulating medium. The Restwell Cabins issue bore the motto, "IN GOD WE TRUST."
- Each piece was numbered, and each piece was signed on the front and on the back. As with the stamp notes of the Midwest, it was necessary to sign each clamshell on the back in order to keep it in circulation. No formal requirements may have existed, but informal pressure certainly would have endorsed the practice.
- This specimen is dated March 8, 1933. This was in the middle of Roosevelt's national banking holiday, and it is exactly the time when we might expect to see people take money into their own hands.
- Restwell Cabins
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- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center