Depreciated Currency Markings of the Civil War
By: Larry Hunt

May 10 , 2011

Our May speaker, Larry Hunt, gave us a very detailed and fascinating presentation on “Depreciated Currency Markings of the Civil War.”  As Larry pointed out, this area of postal history has not been fully explored.  His presentation began with a discussion of the Civil War and the fact that unpaid letters entering the U.S. required that the Federal government pay foreign countries in gold or other specie.  Due to the ongoing costs of the war and the hoarding of coins and specie, the value of U.S. paper money was rapidly depreciating.  This led to the need to design postal markings that gave individuals a choice between paying postage due either in metal coinage or with depreciated paper money.

Larry showed many examples of these scarce markings, which covered the period 1863 to 1878.  This included many different handstamped rate markings.  Much of the discussion centered on the ratio of postage due in paper currency (“U.S. Notes) versus specie, and how that ratio varied over time.  Further research is needed to determine if these exchange ratios were market-determined on set arbitrarily, or whether the rates set in New York were communicated directly to other cities.  Larry indicated that there was much more work to be done on this aspect of postal history and that he would appreciate assistance from his fellow collectors who have other examples of these covers.