Thursday, June 4, 2009

An FDR Short Snorter

June 4, 2009
Posted by John Dale

(Young John Dale Beety has proven his worth to this blog numerous times since he started writing for it a few months ago, but today marks the first time he ventures out of coins. Ever the erudite writer, he has chosen a special piece of currency from the upcoming Manuscripts Auction, and ever the stylist, he has done so in fine form. It is still a numismatic-related lot, but much different, quite quirky, and very cool. Nicely done, I say. Thanks John Dale! - Noah Fleisher)

On the face of it (pun intended for the currency collectors out there), there is little special about the silver certificate in Heritage’s upcoming June Grand Format Historical Manuscripts Auction. It is from Series 1935A, common as silver certificates go. The serial number is nothing special, and the note is worn with multiple folds and slight staining.

Turn it over, though, and signatures run down its length. With the right margin and its “Special Mission 11/22/43” inscription at the top, an important name stands out two-thirds of the way down, across the O in ONE: Franklin D. Roosevelt. Far from being a run-of-the-mill silver certificate, this is actually a World War II-era “short snorter” signed by the then-President and date-linked to the Teheran Conference.

What is a short snorter note? A brief definition is that it is a piece of paper money, typically of low denomination, signed by friends or compatriots in commemoration of an event or time spent together. Often, short snorter notes were taped together, and the notes collectively could be referred to as a “short snorter” as well. The true origin of the short snorter may be lost among myths, but the custom was widespread in the American military during World War II and was often associated with the purchase of large quantities of alcohol.

My short definition stops there, largely because my mother reads this blog, but there’s plenty more information available in print and on the Internet. Two articles about short snorters headline the May 2009 edition of The Numismatist, official magazine of the American Numismatic Association, and the Short Snorter Project is dedicated to the bills and the stories around them. Scrolling down the Short Snorter Web site, this lot is listed as number six in the set of links, from when it was the featured exhibit at the Franklin D. Roosevelt American Heritage Center Museum for March 2005. Below that are the articles from The Numismatist in PDF format, reprinted with permission.

Short snorter enthusiasts treasure them as small slivers of personal history, as individual and distinctive as those who carried them. Condition is not nearly as important as the story a short snorter has to tell. No two people react the same way to a short snorter, either; a short snorter that is of abstract interest to one viewer can have a much more personal meaning to another, though no bond can be so strong as the one between the short snorter and the person who carried it.

Today, there are three types of signatures on short snorters that attract the most attention outside specialist circles: celebrities, particularly those who went on USO tours; important military figures, such as General George S. Patton; and political figures, such as FDR. This short snorter is more than a mere presidential signature, though; Roosevelt is one of many names on the note, brought together by a “special mission” that profoundly influenced the end of World War II.

“History in your hands,” indeed!

Click on the title of this post to leave a comment.

-John Dale Beety

1 comment:

  1. Very nice article John Dale. One can truly learn much about The Greatest Generation through researching these short snorters.

    Tom Sparks
    The Short Snorter Project