• Confederate Currency •
"One of the most important characteristics of a sovereign
nation is the ability to issue and back its own money."
EACH 5 CENT PACK of Civil War News cards included a miniature facsimile (folded in half) of confederate money, one bill per pack - 17 different bills in all. However they were not authentic reproductions, but rather stylized replicas that "captured the look and feel" of the real thing. Below is an example of a twenty dollar bill that formed part of the set of 17.
CONFEDERATE CURRENCY was backed by cotton. In 1860 the South produced most of the world's supply of cotton - over four million bales a year of which three-quarters was exported, over half to England. The Confederate States of America released their first issue of paper money in April, 1861 when their provisional government was only two months old. The Civil War started that same month. That same year (with the loss of southern tax revenue which came from taxing cotton exports) and on the brink of bankruptcy through being pressed to finance what Lincoln mistakingly assumed was going to be a short-lived conflict, the US Congress authorized the United States Treasury to also issue (for the first time) paper money ("greenbacks") in the form of non-interest bearing Treasury Notes called Demand Notes. Bullion and precious metals went elsewhere to buy "strategic goods" and materials .
This was the first confederate bill to feature a portrait of C.C. Clay., the patriot senator from Alabama. Printed in 1862 on pink paper, 1, 935,200 of these T-55 bills went into circulation.
THE TOTAL AMOUNT of southern currency issued under the various acts of the Confederate Congress totaled roughly $1.7 billion. Due to the scarcity of metal (Most precious metals available in the South had made their way to Europe to procure war goods) the Confederacy never "officially" issued coins (although attempts were made - see bottom of page), but they released 72 different note types in seven series between 1861 and 1865. Generally, the types numbers given Confederate notes are as defined by the Criswell catalog of Confederate notes. For some types there are no varieties. Other types have thousands of minute variations. For example approximately 140 major and minor versions have been listed by Criswell of the 1864 $10 (type 68) note.
The T-35 $5 bill, issued in 1861, is one of the most famous Confederate rare types issued. It is known as "the Indian Princess" due to the image of the indian maiden on the right hand side. Only 7,160 of these notes were issued. (A contemporary counterfeit of this bill also exists.)
The 1861 T-24 $5 note was the first to bear the portrait of the then Secretary of State, R.M. Hunter. The bill was printed with several overlaying watermarks in conjunction with brown and red fibres. 69,600 of this bill were issued.
THE FIRST FOUR Confederate notes were issued from the original Confederate capital in Montgomery, Alabama. These "Montgomery" notes exemplify engraving and printing of the highest quality. However, in only a few months, the Confederate government moved to Richmond, Virginia, and the increasing demands for currency resulted in using engraving, lithographing, and printing firms inexperienced in bank note production. This resulted in lowered quality and a multiplicity of note designs. Many variations in plates, printing and papers also appear in most of the issues, due in large part to the limits on commerce resulting from the Union embargo of Confederate ports.
The T-66 bill was printed on good quality paper and is identical to the T-50 and T-57 bills except for a reddish brown overlay covering 80 % of the note. 1,671,444 genuine notes were issued in 1864 of this note. Ironically, "contemporary counterfeits" of this bill produced in Havana are worth ten times the value of the real thing.
AT THE OUTBREAK of the war Southern notes were actually engraved and printed in the North by the National Bank Note Co. of New York. When more money was needed by the south, the Confederacy attempted to have more paper money printed in New York, but the U.S. government seized the plates. As a result, the New Orleans office of the National Bank Note Co. became the "Southern Bank Note Co.," and produced additional $50 and $100 notes in 1861. These notes are marked "Richmond" and are dated either August or September 1861.
A T-41 1862 issue $100 confederate bill depicting slaves hoeing cotton at upper center, J.C. Calhoun at lower left, and the Confederacy "personified" at lower right. The word Hundred is overprinted in orange-red at bottom centre. An elaborate, somewhat rare bill. Unlike currency circulated by the North, Confederate notes were interest-bearing and when interest was paid, it was stamped and dated on the back of the bill.
THE VIGNETTES on Confederate notes were not overly symbolic of the South and designs depicted various mythological Greek gods and goddesses on many notes, sometimes as a central design, and sometimes as an ornamentation. Bills differed from state to state and featured images of slaves at work, ships, railroad trains, animals, state capitols, and of course ''real people', such as George Washington and Stonewall Jackson. Since most of the engravers and bank plates were in the North, Southern printers had to lift by offset or by lithographic process scenes that had been used on whatever notes they had access to - with varying results. Ironically Confederate paper money was not even declared legal tender by the Confederate Congress, but it circulated in the South because there was no alternative.
Issued in 1861, the T1 bill was the highest denomination printed and the only $1000 note printed by the Confederate government. It displayed portraits of John C. Calhoun and former president Andrew Jackson. Only 601 T1s went into circulation.
WORTH 95 CENTS on the dollar in gold when first issued, Confederate currency dropped to 33 cents by 1863 largely due to the fact that England had stockpiled cotton supplies complicated by the northern blockade of the south - turkeys sold for $60 each, tea was $22 a pound and milk $4 a quart. By Appomatox (April 9, 1865) one confederate dollar was worth 1.6 cents and May 1, 1865 was the last active trading in Confederate notes at 1,200 for 1. By comparison, the lowest point of the legal tender Greenbacks of the North was 39 cents on the dollar in gold (July 11, 1864). In 1864 the pay for a private in the south was frozen at about $8 a month when calvary boots alone were costing $500 in inflated currency. By the end of the war a cake of soap could sell for as much as $50 and an ordinary suit of clothes was $2,700.
AT THE TERMINATION of the war Confederate currency became valueless as a medium of exchange. Raphael P. Thian, a French immigrant and the clerk in the Adjutant General’s office, collected Confederate notes in the 1860s, making him the earliest paper money collector in America . He believed that “the history of the purse is as valuable as that of the sword" and wrote extensively on Confederate currency and the Civil War.
FOR YEARS historians have used Thian’s work to understand the inner workings of the Confederacy. Authors like Douglas Ball, in Financial Failure and Confederate Defeat, Joseph Durkin in his biography about Stephen R. Mallory (the South's Secretary of the Navy), and Richard Todd in Confederate Finance have described the results of Thian’s work as “incomparable” and “indispensable” in understanding the Confederacy. Only two copies of Thian's writings exist and reside in national archives.
Confederate Currency as a Collectable
THE FIRST Confederate notes are dated either May or June 1861 and were signed by registrar Alexander B. Clitherall and treasurer E.C. Elmore. Among the most valuable are the first notes of $50 to $1,000. They are dated from Montgomery, Ala., which was the Confederate capital until Virginia seceded and the government was moved to Richmond (on May 24, 1861). The $50 and $100 bills from the first issue are worth as much as $15,000 each; the $500 and $1,000 are worth as much as $20,000 each.
THE $50 BILL from the second series following the government's move to Richmond is worth up to $1,350; the $100 is worth up to $1,500.
THE THIRD issue of Confederate paper money, dated Sept. 2, 1861, also contains a couple of valuable notes. The $5 from this series is worth up to $17,500, and the $10 is worth up to $25,000.
Some years ago an acquaintnace of mine showed me a matching pair of $100 confederate bills from the same issue and with sequential serial numbers. As a matched set, they had an appraised value in the neighbourhood of $11,500 - $13,000 Cdn. Individually however, they were worth next to nothing.
ALTHOUGH Confederate money is usually associated with paper, the South also tried to produce and circulate coins. In early 1861 Jefferson Davis authorized production of a Confederate 50 cent piece to be struck at the branch mint in New Orleans. This was to be accomplished by taking ordinary (US) half dollars with the Liberty Sitting on the obverse, removing the reverse motif, and restriking the coin with a confederate die of shield of seven stars representing the 7 states had joined by that time and adding the words "Confederate States Of America - Half Dolar". Only 504 coins are known to have been made, 500 of which were "sold".
IN 1861, EDWARD ELMORE sent a letter to the CSA Secretary of the Treasury, Christopher Memminger, showing designs for new coinage. The obverse was to have the Liberty Head on it just like every other CSA Coin. Later, Judah Benjamin proposed that the CSA issue $5 and $20 gold coins. Neither are known to exist.
MR ROBERT LOVETT JR. of Philadelphia was commissioned to design, engrave, and make a one cent piece for the Confederacy. He also used the Liberty Head for the obverse. Using nickel, he made a few samples, of which only 12 are currently known to exist.
FOUR ORIGINAL coins with a totally unique Confederate design were also minted on a hand press as test specimens and distributed to government officials for approval. These four coins, the only four ever made, went to President Jefferson Davis, Prof. Biddle of the University of Louisiana, and Dr. E. Ames of New Orleans. The fourth was kept by B.F. Taylor, Chief Coiner of the Confederate States Mint. No more were ever made as the New Orleans Mint was closed on April 30, 1861 due to the difficulty of obtaining bullion.
THE NORTH also stopped issuing coins and turned to printing paper money when it became apparent that the war was going to be a long one. Northern paper money was popularly referred to as greenbacks - a term still used today referring to American currency.
WITH NO NEW coins being produced, northerners started hoarding whatever they had and before long, there were essentially no coins in circulation. As a result, in addition to issuing regular notes of various dollar denominations, the Federal government also issued un-gummed stamps in lieu of 5 cent, 10 cent, 25 cent and half dollar coins.
Examples of 5 cent and 10 cent stamps issued by the North and used in place of coins .
information on this page is for general interest purposes only. It has
been "cobbled together" from
site design by eastLeaf © 2006 - 2007