By John Thomassen for American Numismatic Society (ANS) ……
As we continue our exploration of miscellaneous paper issues from the United States, we trek further into the world of the odd, the strange, the comical, and the confusing. Let’s dive straight in with two examples of one of the most well-known and most successful private note series ever issued: Disney Dollars.
Although perhaps more appropriately described as a type of corporate or company scrip, Disney Dollars were not meant to be issued to and used by employees—unlike other, more notorious forms of company scrip, such as those issued by lumber and coal companies, the use of which was ultimately outlawed with the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.
Instead, Disney Dollars were meant to be used by customers at various Disney facilities, including Disney theme parks, resort hotels, merchandise stores, and food and drink venues. Despite the fact that Disney Dollars are no longer available for purchase, they are still accepted by Disney at many of those same facilities.
Disney Dollars were a hit from the beginning and were exchanged at parity with the U.S. dollar. In fact, their free and easy exchange from USD into Disney Dollars and vice versa almost certainly contributed to their success, as they could be purchased at face value and spent at face value, but many Disney collectors quickly realized from the outset that it was worth holding on to at least some of these notes, either because of the potentially limited runs of certain notes and series (i.e., natural scarcity), or because their use as currency (exchanged for goods and/or converted back to USD) coupled with their eventual wear and tear and the passage of time would result in more common notes becoming scarce, or at least becoming scarce in higher grades.
This proved to be true, and although many Disney Dollars can still be purchased for relatively modest sums even in uncirculated grades, there are many other Disney Dollars that are truly scarce, be they proof issues, condition rarities, or simply issued in very limited numbers or sold during a very limited window. Paper Money Guaranty (PMG) even grades them.
To satisfy the trivia addicts out there, here are some additional fun facts about Disney Dollars:
- The idea for Disney Dollars was conceived by Disney artist Harry Brice
- The first Disney Dollars were issued in 1987, and the final notes were issued in 2016
- Notes were printed in denominations of $1, $5, $10, and $50
- Various series prefixes exist, including A, B, E, D, F, and T
- Like U.S. paper money, low and interesting serial numbers can command a premium
- 500 Yen and 1,000 Yen notes were issued for Tokyo Disneyland starting in 1988
- Errors exist, such as the 2013 $1 101 “Dalmations” note (correct spelling: Dalmatians)
Next up is an object that should be familiar to anyone who lived during the 1990s when tobacco advertising and promotional activities were less restricted than they are today: a Camel cigarettes brand One Camel Cash note, also called a C-Note.
While reminiscent of the slang term for a United States $100 bill, the Camel C-Note did not have quite the same purchasing power. In fact, as of March 31, 2007, Camel Cash has had effectively zero purchasing power, as this was the expiration date set by R. J. Reynolds to redeem any outstanding Camel Cash notes. Interestingly, this is in stark contrast to Disney, which continues to accept Disney Dollars long after the last notes were produced.
Although falling somewhere between a coupon and corporate scrip, Camel Cash notes could not actually be used to buy tobacco products; rather, the owner of said notes could send away for a catalog of Camel-branded goods, then redeem the collected C-Notes on promotional products. One wonders what kind of job promotion or bonus the inventor of this advertising scheme received upon unveiling a plan to induce users of a highly-addictive product to collect enough paper notes from the repeated purchase of said product, in order to redeem them for schlocky promotional wares designed to advertise the same highly-addictive product!
The One Camel Cash note in the ANS collection features a George Washington-esque Joe Camel on the obverse (Washington did grow tobacco, after all) and a litany of instructions and disclaimers on the reverse. Of special note is Joe Camel’s “signature”, which also somehow manages to incorporate the semi-subliminal image of a burning cigarette into it.
In the realm of satirical (perhaps even conspiratorial) paper notes is this One Counterfeit Dollar featuring very explicit anti-United Nations sentiments on both the obverse and reverse. It is (quite clearly) not professionally printed, and was likely crafted using a combination of photocopying hand-drawn elements together with cut-and-pasted images. On the obverse, we find an image of Henry Kissinger at center, along with the names “Mao Tse-Dung” and German philosopher (and founder of the original Bavarian Illuminati) Adam Weishaupt, as well as an address for a Seattle-based action group, who presumably created and distributed the note; an address that appears to be situated in Burien, Washington, otherwise known as Seola Beach.
The reverse of this note features more anti-U.N. messaging, as well as suggestions that a New World Order plot is afoot (a joint effort by both Richard Nixon and Soviet politician Leonid Brezhnev if the note is to be believed). Although no contemporary date is listed, the imagery and themes on this issue suggest that it was fabricated in the late 1960s or early ’70s, during Kissinger’s time as National Security Adviser under Nixon, and when both were pursuing a policy of détente with the Soviet Union, and rapprochement with China.
Lastly, a colorful if not initially confusing paper note with a declared value of One Thursday Buck. Taking center stage is Santa Claus, holding a bag underneath a rainbow with a money tree and pot of gold at our right and his left. Satirical exclamations abound, from the “E Pluribus Kiddem” within the rainbow, to the “Ezeemunny Certificate” at the top border. The note is “signed” by both Pass De Buck and Ham N. Eggs, the latter giving a clue as to what this note is satirizing.
On the reverse, we find “For Use In Bankrupting / Scrambled Eggs For California”, along with a list of affected parties to this “State of Confusion”, and a clearer picture begins to form. Upon further investigation, this note was produced to criticize the nascent Ham and Eggs movement, which was a plan borne out of a pension movement championed by physician Francis Townsend, whose Townsend Plan and subsequent Townsend Clubs helped propel the creation of the federal Social Security program. The Ham and Eggs movement advocated for a similar old-age pension plan, but one specifically designed for California residents. Their initiative was ultimately defeated in 1938, perhaps due in no small part to these satirical One Thursday Buck notes.
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