Carlton "Fred" Schwan will be instructing multiple courses
and mini-seminars at this year's ANA Summer Seminar. One of the
mini-seminars he will be instructing is titled, "Alphabet Soup:
Collecting Savings Bonds Series A-K." Schwan believes
bonds are usually unappreciated as historic collectibles, but
that may be changing before our very own eyes. Schwan's
mini-seminar plans to teach students about each series, A-K, with a
focus on World War II issues. The lack of appreciation for bonds as
historical issues sparked my interest in blogging about bonds, in
particular, war bonds from the WWII era.
The roots of WWII war bonds began in February of 1935 when
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation that
allowed the U.S. Department of Treasury to sell a new type of
security called the U.S. Savings Bond. Thus, in March of 1935 the
first series was issued, Series A, which was priced at about 75
percent of its value. Series B (1936), Series C (1938), and Series
D (1941) followed.
When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, forcing America to join the
Allies in WWII, the U.S. government sought a way to finance the
war. Just months after entering the war, Roosevelt
announced another series, Series E. This new series was called the
Defense savings bond - better known as war bonds. The first person
to purchase a bond was Roosevelt himself on April 30, 1942;
the following day the bonds were public. The bonds were virtually a
loan to the government to help finance the war, but they were also
an opportunity to remove money from circulation and reduce
The government wanted to make sure that everyone could help to
finance the war, not just those who could afford war bonds. Hence,
war stamps were introduced in 1942.
There were enormous advertising efforts to persuade
Americans to purchase war bonds. The majority of the advertising
used an emotional appeal to convince individuals it was morally
right to have a financial stake in the war. War bond rallies
occurred regularly, and celebrities endorsed the purchasing of the
bonds. Celebrity endorsers included Lucille Ball, Judy Garland, Mikey Rooney, and many others. Sporting events
held special games and matches in which the price of admission was
a war bond.
In 194,4 Bob Montgomery and Beau
Jack battled each each other in
a lightweight world championship bout.
The bout generated the largest amount of gate receipts in
boxing history, totaling $36
million in war bonds. Artist Norman Rockwell's "Four Freedoms" painting also
generated a large amount of war bonds sales, $130 million, when it
toured department stores nationwide. Even schools raised money
through small donations from students. Also, advertisements for war
bonds were in comic strips, cartoons, movie theaters, and
everywhere one looked.
As a result of effective advertising and support from millions
of Americans willing to help their country financially, war bonds
generated $185.7 billion by January of 1946. Even after the war,
many Americans did not sell back their bonds; instead, many decided
to purchase more. It was not until 1980 that the Series-E bond was
eliminated when it was replaced with the Series-EE bond.
WWII savings bonds are just a small piece of the history
associated with the United States bond system. That is why I would
encourage anyone participating in this year's Summer Seminar to
enroll in Schwan's mini-seminar; it will be taught on Sunday, June
23. For more information on registering for Schwan's mini-seminar
and other educational opportunities at the 45th annual
Summer Seminar, go to www.money.org/summerseminar.
(Schwan has taught several
military numismatics and War Bonds courses over the