Lemons into lemonade

Discovery note brings elation
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Published : 12/15/11
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Turning lemons into lemonade — this happens often to collectors of obsolete scrip notes that include the name of a town but not of the state.

You find a note with the name of a town on it that you assume must be from your state because, after all, how many towns would have this name?

Then you find out there are absolutely other states that lay claim to the town name, and you ultimately determine that the note is from another state.

Your pride in getting the note is significantly diminished, and you try to find it a new home with a collector from its own state.

My experience was with a plain little scrip note datelined “Yellow Springs” payable at Johnston, Jack & Co. Yellow Springs, Ohio, is located in the southwest portion of the state. The note bears no printed reference to a state, but I just knew it had to be an Ohio note, using the logic just described.

Alarms started to ring when I could not find any reference to Johnston or Jack in any of my go-to resources like Ancestors.com or county histories.

Someone then gently pointed out that Dick Hoober had listed this issuer in his Pennsylvania catalog back in 1985. I grudgingly conceded that the note was, in fact, from Pennsylvania.

I had mostly unsigned remainders in my collection but ran across a signed example recently while updating my collection database. The signer, I found, was one “James Kinkead.”

So I fired up Ancestry.com and started looking through the 1860 census database.

At first, no success, but after fiddling with the name, out popped a “Jas. Kinkead” who was a 47-year-old merchant living near Yellow Springs, Pa., in 1860.

James Kinkead, as it turns out, is an unlisted issuer for Pennsylvania, with this being the discovery note.

While finding discovery notes or new issuers is not a rare occurrence in the field of obsolete paper money, it was still a nice outcome for a situation that had created so much disappointment originally.

In the field of obsolete paper money, it always pays to do a little research no matter how sure you are about a note’s origins.

Sometimes the answer will surprise you!

Wendell Wolka has been a paper money collector and educator for more than 40 years. If you have questions or suggestions, you can reach him by email at purduenut@aol.com, or by mail at Box 1211, Greenwood, IN 46142. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope if a written response is required.

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