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US Fractional Currency

Fractional Notes

Author Unknown

An article from a newspaper, the "Washington Star," from the period reads: ". . . In 1862 small change became very scarce. . .It was more than a day's search to find a five-cent silver piece." Civil War was about to cross the Mason Dixon line and the political and economic future of the fledgling union was a hard read. The country's only mint in Philadelphia had been in production less than a hundred years, the first coins rolling out in 1793, and keeping silver and gold coins in the marketplace had been a problem since the mints inception. As war loomed, hoarding coinage became a national obsession. Reportedly, the floor of a building in New York used to stockpile copper collapsed under the weight of the tons of squirreled away pennies and half pennies it was supporting.

Necessity quickly mothered a number of trial solutions by inventive merchants, banks, and institutions, including promissory notes, metal tokens, and attempts to use regular postage stamps as change. But the public felt short changed, and didn't take to wooden nickels, promissory notes too easily broken, and tokens that amounted to nothing more than gestures. Clearly the federal government, which was preoccupied with first avoiding, then waging, a civil war, would have to become involved.

In 1862, General F.E. Spinner, then Treasurer of the United States, ordered that some postage stamps and blank paper on which government securities were normally printed be sent to his office. He cut some of the paper to small uniform sizes and proceeded to paste a few of the stamps in an orderly fashion onto the cut pieces of treasury paper.

Spinner's models were quickly adopted and in 1862 the first of five separate production issues that would stretch to 1876 entered the marketplace. The 5, 10, 25, and 50-cent denominations of the first issue bore the name "Postage Currency" across the top, but all issues thereafter were stamped, and became known as, "Fractional Currency."

The small bills, measuring 2 ½ to 5 inches across, and ranging in value from 3 to 50 cents evolved artistically and aesthetically into what have become some of the least known and most beautiful examples of American collectible currency.

First Series - Deonminations: 5,10,25 & 50 - Date of Issue: Aug21, 1862-May27, 1863    

 

   
Obverse Reverse
Second Series - Denominations: 5,10,25 & 50 - Date of Issue: Oct 10, 1863-Feb 23, 1867    

A second series fractional with a value of 5 cents. An image of George Washington on the obverse, and an shield design with a central number 5 with a 5 overprint on the reverse.

  • Friedberg # (?)
  • Signatures of
5 cents 2nd issue cat B-2-1 obverse 5 cents 2nd issue cat B-2-1 reverse
Obverse Reverse
Third Series - Denominations: 3,5,10,25 & 50 - Date of Issue: Dec 5,1864-Aug 16, 1869    

From the 3rd issue of fractionals in 1864-69, a 3 cent note. It has a portrait of Washington in the center of the obverse, and has a round portal type design with the number 3 in the center.

  • Friedberg #1226/1227(?)
  • Signatures of
1864-69 3 cents 3rd issue obverse cat# A-3-1 1864-69 3 cents 3rd issue obverse cat# A-3-1
Obverse Reverse

Another note from the 3rd series of fractionals, a 10 cent note. It also has a portrait of Washington in the center of the obverse. It also has a bold 10 in each corner. The reverse has a larger 10 overprint, where on this note is almost worn off.

  • Friedberg #1255?
  • Signatures of Colby-Spinner
1864-69 10 cents 3rd issue obverse cat# C-3-1 1864-69 10 cents 3rd issue reverse cat# C-3-1

Obverse

Reverse

Fourth Series - Denominations: 10,15,25 & 50 - Date of Issue: July 14, 1869-Feb 16, 1875    

This note is from the 4th series of fractionals in 1863, a 10 cent note. This note has a beautiful vingette representing 'Liberty' on the left, and a large 40mm red seal on right. This note has pink silk fibres inbeded in the paper.

  • Friedberg #1261
  • Signatures of Allison-Spinner
1869-75 10 cents 4th issue obverse cat# C-4-2 1869-75 10 cents 4th issue reverse cat# C-4-2
Obverse Reverse

This 15 cent note is from the 4th series of 1863. This shows another one of my favorite vingettes, showing Columbia on the left. The right of the obverse shows a 40mm red seal. The paper is embeded with pink silk fibres.

  • Friedberg #1271
  • Signatures of Allison-Spinner
1869-75 15 cent  4th issue obverse cat# D-4-1 1869-75 15 cent 4th issue reverse cat# D-4-1
Obverse Reverse

Here is a 25 cent note from the 4th series. It has a portrait of washington on the left and a 40mm red seal on the right. The paper was embeded with pink silk fibres.

  • Friedberg #1307
  • Signatures of Allison-Spinner
1869-75 25 cent 4th issue obverse cat# E-4-1 1869-75 25 cent 4th issue reverse cat# E-4-1
Obverse Reverse

This is a 50 cent note from the 4th series of fractional notes from 1863. The obverse has the portrait of E.M. Stanton on the left.

  • Friedberg #1376
  • Signatures of Allison-Spinner
1869-75 50 cent 4th issue obverse cat# F-4-1 1869-75 50 cent 4th issue reverse cat# F-4-1
Obverse Reverse

Here is another 50 cent note from the 4th series. This one shows a portrait of Sam Dexter on the left of the obverse.

  • Friedberg #1379
  • Signatures of Allison-Spinner
1869-75 50 cents 4th issue obverse cat# F-4-2 1869-75 50 cents 4th issue reverse cat# F-4-2

Obverse

Reverse

Fifth Series - Denominations: 10,25 & 50 - Date of Issue: Feb 26, 1874-Feb 15, 1876    

This is the same note as above from the 5th series, only this note has the 4/5 mm key. This note is also in better condition.

  • Friedberg #1265
  • Signatures of Allison-Spinner
1874-76 10 cents 5th issue obverse cat# C-5-1 1874-76 10 cents 5th issue obverse cat# C-5-1
Obverse Reverse

This 10 cent note is from the 5th and final series of fractionals from 1874-75. Portrait of William Meredith on the left with a red seal. This note has the 4/5 mm key.

  • Friedberg #1266
  • Signatures of Allison-Spinner
1874-76 10 cents 5th issue obverse cat# C-5-1 1874-76 10 cents 5th issue obverse cat# C-5-1
Obverse Reverse

This 25 cent note is from the 5th series of fractionals from 1874-75. This shows the portrait of Robert Walker on the obverse left, and a red seal with a short key on the right.

  • Friedberg #1309
  • Signatures of Allison-Spinner
1874-75 25 cents 5th issue obverse cat# E-5-2 1874-75 25 cents 5th issue reverse cat# E-5-2

Obverse

Reverse

This note is the same as above from the 5th series, only this note has the long key.

  • Friedberg #1308
  • Signatures of Allison-Spinner
1874-75 25 cents 5th issue obverse cat# E-5-3 1874-75 25 cents 5th issue reverse cat# E-5-3
Obverse Reverse

 

   
Obverse Reverse


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