Obsolete notes have always been a fertile field for people who enjoy
Rather than collect every note from a geographic area, some of us
enjoy collecting notes and scrip that depict trains or steamboats or
Indians or eagles, for example. Others look for more exotic subject
matter that is either unique or odd.
I’ve always been fascinated by some of the things that have appeared
on bank notes through the years.
Santa Claus has made appearances on a number of obsolete bank notes.
Frogs engaged in combat appear on a Windham Bank (Conn.) $1 note,
commemorating an unusual natural phenomenon that occurred in 1754,
convincing the local populace that all of the racket made by thousands
of frogs fighting for space in a greatly diminished pond meant that
they were under attack by Indians!
Then there’s the scrip note from Fish House, N.Y., that has a
prominent vignette of a house superimposed on the side of a fish. But
what in the world does the Manduca sexta, better known as the tobacco
hornworm, have to do with bank notes?
While looking through the recent Florida United Numismatists
Heritage Signature Auction lots, I came across lot 18308. I normally
do not actively collect notes from Georgia, a state with many
interesting and beautiful issues, but this lot brought me up short.
There, in all of its disgusting glory on an 1839 $1 note from
Eatonton, Ga., was a tobacco hornworm! I think that the cataloger was
probably correct in his assessment that this is undoubtedly the only
use of the tobacco hornworm as the subject of a bank note vignette in
the United States; probably the world.
Why this rather disgusting ravager of crops would be selected for
such an honor escapes me. Perhaps it commemorates some local
infestation or was simply felt to be distinctive and likely to cause
the locals to talk about the issuer.
One of the beauties of obsolete paper money is that we’ll probably
never know. It is likely to remain one of those weird “what were they
And it’s those kind of stories that people like me enjoy telling
people like you as part of the collecting experience.
I’d love to hear from you if you have any insight into this
Keep reading about paper money:
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14 auction to offer Canadian paper money at Downtown Toronto
scene appears on newly released Trinidad and Tobago $50 polymer notes
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