What Was Money Like Before the Government Took Over?


It was a lot more festive! Before the federal government started printing paper money in 1861, individual banks produced their own currency. Bank notes varied widely, but one figure in particular was popular: Santa Claus. The White Mountain Bank of New Hampshire, the Howard Banking Company of Massachusetts, and, naturally, the Saint Nicholas Bank of New York City all dispersed bills bearing the likeness of Father Christmas. The 19th-century Santa was slimmer and less hirsute, and he kept up with 1850s fashion. Even though these bills are defunct, they remain valuable. In 2012, a Santa originally worth $5 from the Howard Banking Company fetched $8,625 at auction, which must have made its previous owner pretty jolly.