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Clamshell Scrip from the Great Depression



This specimen comes from the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian.
When the Depression and resulting banking crisis hit their community, the residents of the coastal town of Pismo Beach, California picked an unusual but logical medium of exchange... The Chamber of Commerce and no fewer than eleven merchants issued clamshell scrip.

Each piece was numbered, and each piece was signed on the front and on the back. As with the stamp notes of the Midwest, it was necessary to sign each clamshell on the back in order to keep it in circulation. No formal requirements may have existed, but informal pressure certainly would have endorsed the practice.

Restwell Cabins issued "notes" in three denominations: twenty-five cents, fifty cents, and one dollar. The larger the amount, the larger the shell. The issue may have been partly intended as a spoof, or for sale to tourists, in the manner of German notgeld around 1920. Redemption would never be a problem because collectors would want to keep these pieces in their cabinets or trade them with their friends.

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