Civil War

Fractional Currency: Substitutes for Scarce Metal

During the Civil War, widespread hoarding of gold and silver coins and the need to divert metals created a desperate shortage of small change. Paper tickets and bills were frequently substituted, but the scarcity was so great that Congress authorized the issuance of postage stamps as a temporary “Fractional Currency.”

From 1862 to 1876, the federal government issued more than $368 million in Fractional Currency notes in three- to fifty-cent denominations. Nicknamed “shinplasters,” these “paper” coins were much smaller in size than our existing currency. After the Civil War, Fractional Currency was no longer needed and by 1876, Congress stopped printing “shinplasters.”

+ References

Gallery

Fractional Currency, 5 cents, 1864-1869
Fractional Currency, 5 cents, 1864-1869

Fractional Currency: Substitutes for Scarce Metal

Fractional Currency, 5 cents, 1864-1869

Fractional Currency, 50 cents, 1869-1870
Fractional Currency, 50 cents, 1869-1870

Fractional Currency: Substitutes for Scarce Metal

Fractional Currency, 50 cents, 1869-1870

Fractional Currency, 10 cents, 1863-1867
Fractional Currency, 10 cents, 1863-1867

Fractional Currency: Substitutes for Scarce Metal

Fractional Currency, 10 cents, 1863-1867

Fractional Currency, 3 cents, 1864-1869
Fractional Currency, 3 cents, 1864-1869

Fractional Currency: Substitutes for Scarce Metal

Fractional Currency, 3 cents, 1864-1869

Fractional Currency, 5 cents, 1862-1863
Fractional Currency, 5 cents, 1862-1863

Fractional Currency: Substitutes for Scarce Metal

Fractional Currency, 5 cents, 1862-1863

Fractional Currency, 5 cents, 1863-1867
Fractional Currency, 5 cents, 1863-1867

Fractional Currency: Substitutes for Scarce Metal

Fractional Currency, 5 cents, 1863-1867

Fractional Currency, 10 cents, 1862-1863
Fractional Currency, 10 cents, 1862-1863

Fractional Currency: Substitutes for Scarce Metal

Fractional Currency, 10 cents, 1862-1863

Fractional Currency, 10 cents, 1862-1863
Fractional Currency, 10 cents, 1862-1863

Fractional Currency: Substitutes for Scarce Metal

Fractional Currency, 10 cents, 1862-1863

Fractional Currency, 10 cents, 1874-1876
Fractional Currency, 10 cents, 1874-1876

Fractional Currency: Substitutes for Scarce Metal

Fractional Currency, 10 cents, 1874-1876

Fractional Currency, 15 cents, 1869-1875
Fractional Currency, 15 cents, 1869-1875

Fractional Currency: Substitutes for Scarce Metal

Fractional Currency, 15 cents, 1869-1875

Fractional Currency, 15 cents, 1869-1875
Fractional Currency, 15 cents, 1869-1875

Fractional Currency: Substitutes for Scarce Metal

Fractional Currency, 15 cents, 1869-1875

Fractional Currency, 25 cents, 1862-1863
Fractional Currency, 25 cents, 1862-1863

Fractional Currency: Substitutes for Scarce Metal

Fractional Currency, 25 cents, 1862-1863

Fractional Currency, 25 cents, 1863-1867
Fractional Currency, 25 cents, 1863-1867

Fractional Currency: Substitutes for Scarce Metal

Fractional Currency, 25 cents, 1863-1867

Fractional Currency, 25 cents, 1864-1869
Fractional Currency, 25 cents, 1864-1869

Fractional Currency: Substitutes for Scarce Metal

Fractional Currency, 25 cents, 1864-1869

Fractional Currency, 25 cents, 1874-1876
Fractional Currency, 25 cents, 1874-1876

Fractional Currency: Substitutes for Scarce Metal

Fractional Currency, 25 cents, 1874-1876

Fractional Currency, 50 cents, 1862-1863
Fractional Currency, 50 cents, 1862-1863

Fractional Currency: Substitutes for Scarce Metal

Fractional Currency, 50 cents, 1862-1863

Fractional Currency, 50 cents, 1863-1867
Fractional Currency, 50 cents, 1863-1867

Fractional Currency: Substitutes for Scarce Metal

Fractional Currency, 50 cents, 1863-1867

Fractional Currency, 50 cents, 1864-1869
Fractional Currency, 50 cents, 1864-1869

Fractional Currency: Substitutes for Scarce Metal

Fractional Currency, 50 cents, 1864-1869

Fractional Currency, 50 cents, 1870-1875
Fractional Currency, 50 cents, 1870-1875

Fractional Currency: Substitutes for Scarce Metal

Fractional Currency, 50 cents, 1870-1875

Fractional Currency, 50 cents, 1874-1876
Fractional Currency, 50 cents, 1874-1876

Fractional Currency: Substitutes for Scarce Metal

Fractional Currency, 50 cents, 1874-1876

Postage Stamp, 1 cent, 1862-1863
Postage Stamp, 1 cent, 1862-1863

Stamps

Postage Stamp, 1 cent, 1862-1863

Postage Stamp, 5 cents, 1861-1862
Postage Stamp, 5 cents, 1861-1862

Stamps

Postage Stamp, 5 cents, 1861-1862

Postage Stamp, 5 cents, 1862
Postage Stamp, 5 cents, 1862

Stamps

Postage Stamp, 5 cents, 1862

Postage Stamp, 10 cents, 1861-1862
Postage Stamp, 10 cents, 1861-1862

Stamps

Postage Stamp, 10 cents, 1861-1862