Emergency Money

Emergency Money

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Usage conditions apply
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
alternative currency
Other Terms
shell money, clam; North America; California, Pismo Beach
Date made
used date
Leiter's Pharmacy
place made
United States: California, Pismo Beach
United States: California, Pismo Beach
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
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Chase Manhattan Bank
Bank Holiday of 1933
See more items in
Work and Industry: National Numismatic Collection
National Treasures exhibit
Coins, Currency and Medals
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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My father Harry H Leiter was the owner of Leiter’ Pharmacy and issued these shells. The last Leiter’s Pharmacy closed about four years ago. I would pay dearly for one example of the clamshells to have for our family collection of Pharmacy memorabilia which includes several hundred brass mortars and pestles.

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