Messages of Circumstance

Persecution and Genocide

These notes were issued under the order of Nazi officials during the Holocaust for use by Jewish people in concentration camps and ghettos. This currency could only be used in limited ways inside places of Nazi imprisonment and served as a device to further isolate and denationalize Jewish people.

100 Kronen Note, Theresienstadt Concentration Camp and Ghetto in Czechoslovakia, 1943

50 Pfennig Note, Łódź Concentration Camp and Ghetto in Poland, 1940  

Donated by the Stack Family

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Wartime Emergencies and Imprisonment

Emergency currencies have often been issued during wartime. After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States withdrew its regular notes from Hawaii and issued notes printed with the island’s name to protect the national currency in case Hawaii fell to Japanese invasion. Armies also issued currencies specifically for prisoners of war.

50 Centime Coupon, France, 1914–19

5 Dollar Note, United States, 1934

Donated by Mrs. F. C. C. Boyd

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Military Occupancy

These currencies were issued by Allied governments during and immediately after the Second World War. The lira and mark notes are called Allied Military Currencies and were used by both military officials and civilians in newly occupied areas to protect Allied national currencies from inflation. The British government also issued Armed Forces Special Vouchers in an attempt to prevent military goods from being sold on the post-war black market.

1 Lira Allied Military Note, Italy, 1943

Donated by Mr. & Mrs. Mortimer L. Neinken

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1,000 Mark Allied Military Note, Germany, 1944

Currency Shortages

Token, United States, 1837

Donated by Mendel L. Peterson

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During the 1830s and the early 1840s, the United States faced economic decline and a shortage of coins. These copper tokens, called hard-times tokens, were issued privately and used as money. Some contain satirical images, such as a tortoise carrying a safe with the word “Treasury” on it.

Hardship and Hunger

Food stamps are issued by the U.S. government to low-income families and individuals and are accepted by most grocery stores as money for food purchases. The United States first began issuing food stamps in 1939 to help struggling families during the Great Depression. Since then, the government has also developed special programs for mothers and babies in need.

Food Certificate, United States, about 1970

Donated by U.S. Department of Agriculture

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Taxation: The Beard Token

Beard Token, Russia, 1705

Donated by Willis H. du Pont

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In the late 17th century, Russian Emperor Peter I instituted a tax on beards because he regarded them as in poor taste when compared with modern fashions in Europe. Any man who wanted to keep his beard was forced to pay a tax and carry a token. The token depicts a beard and mustache.