Paper Money

Fascinating numismatic glimpses invite inquiry

Guest Commentary from the Dec. 19, 2016 issue of Coin World:

Nov. 17 witnessed the release of the Fort Moultrie quarter dollar. Ceremonies were held at Fort Moultrie, located on Sullivan’s Island in South Carolina.

At the time of our Revolutionary War, the fort was known as Fort Sullivan. It was later named Fort Moultrie, after Gen. William Moultrie, who commanded the fort during the battle against the British Navy, in defense of Charleston. In July 1776, the patriots at Fort Sullivan fought off the British, taking small losses compared to what was inflicted on the enemy. The British Navy retreated, burning one of their grounded ships to prevent its capture. This victory prevented the British from occupying Charleston for about another four years.

The commemorative quarter dollar has the image of Sgt. William Jasper rescuing the fort’s flag, shot down by British naval bombardment, and raising it under fire. Jasper died fighting the British three years later at Savanna, Ga.

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The Fort Moultrie quarter dollar is not the first numismatic currency portraying the battle. While attending an American Numismatic Association Summer Seminar course in Colorado Springs, Colo., on the subject of Colonial paper money, instructor Erik Goldstein brought to our attention a Colonial bill with the battle scene in the background in a vignette containing a palm tree. The bill is a uniface South Carolina 10-shilling issue of 1778. He also informed us that this is the only Colonial bill that commemorates an actual Revolutionary War battle.

I was fascinated, and became determined to learn more and add one of these bills to my collection. I was successful in acquiring an economical example and I did a lot of reading about the history of this event.

My wife and I visited Fort Moultrie (and Fort Sumter while we were there) and enjoyed associating the history while standing in the surroundings where the events occurred. The museum staff were very helpful and very well informed about the local history.

I imagine that all the schools in South Carolina teach about the history of this fort. But living in New Jersey, I never even heard of Fort Sullivan, or Fort Moultrie. Because of numismatics, my search for history has left me now knowing as much about Fort Sullivan as I know about the Battle of Trenton (a few miles down the road). Learning the history behind what we collect can be as fun as actually owning it. And fun is what a hobby is all about.

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