Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Use Your Mind to Cope

On Sunday, I was given a silver certificate as partial payment for some artwork I sold.  To be more precise, it was a short snorter.  I don't know who I got it from, as several people bought from me that day, so I can't return it.  If you are like me, you know generally what a silver certificate is, but have never heard of a short snorter.  I will do my best to enlighten you.
For paper currency to have any value, it has to represent something of value.  Our (US) money has been based on the value of gold, of silver, at times on both, and at other times on neither.  (This is too complex a topic to explain fully.  If you want to learn more, Wikipedia has a number of good articles.)  From 1878 to 1964, the US printed 'silver certificates', which were redeemable for silver.  Since 1968 they have been redeemable only for Federal Reserve Notes (the formal name for US paper money), but are still valid as money.   Paper money has a relatively short lifespan, because the paper wears out from handling.  Silver certificates are no longer printed, so those still in existence are often held onto.
So I was surprised to find a $1 silver certificate among my bills on Sunday.  It is in pretty good shape, except for alot of signatures all over it.  I went online to find out if it was worth anything.  As a silver certificate, it is likely worth $1.25-$3.00, but as a short snorter, it is a valuable piece of history.  It turns out that those signatures are not just a bunch of names.  A short snorter is paper money signed by people traveling together, or stationed together in the military.  The tradition was started by Alaskan bush pilots in the 1920's, and spread through military and commercial aviation.  During WWII, they were signed by flight crews, and signified good luck to soldiers going overseas.
Another custom was for soldiers to sign each other's bills using the local currency.  At a future time, the collector would have to produce the bill upon request, or he owed the signer a drink.  The term 'short snorter' comes from the use of the word 'snort' to mean drink, and short, meaning less than a full measure.  Another version was that everyone's short snorters would be compared, and the one with the fewest signatures bought the drinks.  Sometimes single short snorter bills were taped together end to end, to make long strips that were rolled into rolls.
To learn more about short snorters, and to view some, check out the website of the Short Snorter Project.  One person took it upon himself to publish scans of short snorters, and encouraging people to send in photos and other info about the names found on them.
I hope you have enjoyed learning about this as much as I did.  I spent about three hours yesterday reading and researching, first about silver certificates, then about short snorters.  I love learning, and am fascinated by many different subjects.  Getting absorbed in what you are doing is a great way to distract yourself from pain and illness, and learning is one of my favorite ways to get my mind absorbed.  Learning is also is a good way to exercise your brain, which helps to fend off dementia.

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