LINCOLN PROFILE BUST OF MACERATED GREENBACKS

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Item Code: 1202-137

Souvenirs molded from macerated U.S. currency were popular tourist souvenirs in Washington, D.C., from about 1875 into the 1920s. This is a profile bust portrait of Lincoln still showing bits of paper and color, even one letter on the reverse. The obverse is molded with Lincoln’s features. The back is flat with a label reading: “Made of United States bank notes, macerated at the U.S. Treasury. / Estimated at $5,000.”

Instead of burning old currency taken out of circulation, which still left some fragments floating around that might be found and redeemed, the government switched to maceration in 1874, which ground it while wet into pulp. The prospect of seeing many  thousands of dollars destroyed was a novelty and the resulting pulp itself, containing small bits of paper and traces of ink, became the medium for molded souvenirs for sale to tourists of the Capital, with several producers creating portrait busts of notables, patriotic Lincoln or Uncle Sam top hats, miniature buildings like the Washington Monument, but also a wide variety of knickknacks like small animals, shoes, etc. They remained for sale in souvenir shops well into the 1920s, but lost a lot of appeal after 1908 when the government added chemicals to the pulp, destroying the bits of color, though a few entrepreneurs then added their own bits of paper.

This is a nice example of the genre, still showing flecks of green, with the dollar amount indicating on the label indicating the value of the currency destroyed in making the batch of pulp from which it was molded.  [sr][ph:m]

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