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When Seashells Were Money

Practically anything can be used for an exchange medium, as long as the community recognizes and agrees on its worth. It also helps if the item used is hard to counterfeit. Seashells have filled that job in all parts of the world throughout history, even into 20th-century California.

When the America’s banks closed during the Great Depression, communities strapped for cash began circulating their own temporary currency. In 1933, Leiter’s Pharmacy in Pismo Beach, California, issued a clamshell as change, which was signed as it changed hands and redeemed when cash became available again. That shell (pictured top) is now on display at the National Museum of American History.

Read an overview of how seashells have been used as currency in different places at Messy Messy Chic.

(Image credit: Chase Manhattan Bank)

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