Emergency Money

When the nation's banks closed during the Depression, Leiter's Pharmacy in Pismo Beach, California, issued this clamshell as change.
The 1929 stock market crash triggered banking panics, as people rushed to withdraw their savings before they were lost. In March 1933, President Roosevelt ordered a four-day bank holiday to prevent further withdrawals. To compensate for the currency shortage, communities created emergency money, or scrip. This clamshell was signed as it changed hands and redeemed when cash became available again.
Currently not on view
Object Name
shell money, clam
Date made
used date
Leiter's Pharmacy
Physical Description
shells, clam (overall material)
ink (overall material)
white/yellow (overall color)
black (overall color)
marked with ink (overall production method/technique)
average spatial: 97.9 mm x 133.6 mm; x 3 7/8 in x 5 1/4 in
United States: California, Pismo Beach
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
catalog number
Coins, Currency and Medals
National Treasures exhibit
Bank Holiday of 1933
See more items in
Political History: National Numismatic Collection
National Treasures exhibit
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Related Publication
Kendrick, Kathleen M. and Peter C. Liebhold. Smithsonian Treasures of American History
Publication title
Treasures of American History online exhibition
Publication author
National Museum of American History
Publication URL
Additional Media

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