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Mr_Norris_LKNS's Blog

26 Apr 2020

Hawaii Love Note

Paper Money-U.S. | Mr_Norris_LKNS

Thought I'd share my latest find. As many know, one of my favorite topics in numismatics involves items related to the Second World War, particularly money that would have been in circulation during the war, from any country. Some of the most popular wartime numismatic items would be the emergency paper currency issues, particularly the gold seal "North Africa" notes and the reddish-brown seal "Hawaii" notes. I put these descriptions in quotation marks because, although that is how they are commonly known, and indeed were used in those respective locations, these notes saw use in wider ranges than those specific geographic areas.

The attached photos are of a 1935-A US One Dollar silver certificate of the Hawaii overprint emergency currency variety, serial number S49597732C. In the blank spaces on either side of President Washington's portrait, someone has inscribed "A Kiss for you Hon - X" and "Loving you always. X" ("X" being a shorthand symbol for a kiss in a love letter; and "hon" being short form for "honey", a common term of endearment). In the blank spaces above and below the Hawaii overprint on the back, the inscription reads "I love you, Hon." and "You are my Sweets".


After the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, the US Government was worried that an invasion of Hawaii might be imminent. Being a populous US territory, Hawaii required a significant quantity of US currency for its local economy to function. In addition to the destruction and hardships a Japanese conquest would bring to the locals, another credible concern was that the currency that could be captured by the Japanese could be used against American interests. It was decided to swap out the regular US currency being used there (and in additional territories around the Pacific) for a special issue that could be demonetized (i.e., declared worthless) by our government should a significant amount be captured. These special emergency notes were overprinted with the word "HAWAII" on both the face and the back (see photos) and used a reddish-brown Treasury seal on the face as opposed to the blue seal on regular issue notes. This "brown" seal had been used on other notes, but it was distinctive enough with the "Hawaii" overprint that it made them easily distinguishable among circulating currency. These notes were meant for circulation in designated Pacific theater areas, and not for the mainland US. Conversely, "mainland" currency was recalled in these locations and exchanged for "Hawaii" notes; anyone retaining "mainland" currency in these areas could be considered to be in violation of Federal law. Fortunately, the invasion of Hawaii by Japanese armed forces never materialized, and the devaluation of these notes was never necessary. The issuance of Hawaii notes was discontinued, and regular issues were resumed.


The Pearl Harbor attack generated a massive patriotic response among the American people, with many individuals signing up for military service or defense work specifically to avenge their country against Japan. Hundreds of thousands of individuals who may never otherwise have visited Hawaii or other far-flung Pacific territories did so through the performance of their wartime duties. The long distances and fear of the uncertainties of war caused many a young heart to long for some other young heart, with the promise of love's affection upon their return to keep them going. Souvenirs would be collected along their journeys and often sent home to their loved ones. As these travelers went about their daily lives, they encountered strange new currencies. These notes too would end up being sent home as souvenirs, often with a message scrawled across them or in the margins, whether an annotation of how or where it was acquired, or perhaps a more personal note.

Perhaps most numismatists with even a passing interest in World War Two are familiar with "short snorter" notes, which took either the form of a single note with a collection of signatures of people met by the bearer, or a string of notes cellophane-taped together in sequence as acquired during the bearer's travels. Also fairly commonly known, although far more widespread in history than World War Two, are "love tokens", or coins which have been defaced and engraved with a name, image, or romantic message as a tangible memento of affection between the giver and its recipient. The Love Token Society defines two requirements: that it be made from a legitimate coin, and that it be engraved by hand [as opposed to commercially produced]. My newly-acquired Hawaii note falls somewhere in between. It is not made from a coin, so by a strict Love Token Society definition it is not a love token; but like a coin, it indeed was originally created as a form of government-issued currency to be used for facilitating commerce, and subsequently modified by a private individual to convey a message of affection to another. Yet it doesn't quite arise to the level of a short snorter, because whoever wrote on it chose not to include the name of either the giver or the recipient. Maybe names were assumed unnecessary, as the sender and recipient were understood to be the same as the sender and recipient of a letter in which the note was included. Or perhaps one or both parties had reasons to keep the nature of their relationship under wraps at the time. Or perhaps at the time it was inscribed the writer wasn't sure of the recipient's proper name due to the whirlwind nature of their romance. Or perhaps the inscriber hadn't narrowed down the choice of recipient to a specific individual!

So instead of a love token or a short snorter, I have a love note written on a Hawaii emergency note. Is this a new category of Second World War numismatics? Or just a defaced Hawaii note? It's possible it was inscribed after the war, but due to it being in very nice, lightly circulated condition and fairly clean, I like to think that it was likely a wartime souvenir between two long-distance lovebirds, with the traveler reassuring the recipient that, despite traveling to far-flung exotic and possibly romantic locations, love and affection between them would remain faithful and true... making this the paper currency version of a love token.

Comments

user_7180

Level 5

Always great to read about the history of pieces of anything, but especially the history of Numismatic pieces.

coinsbygary

Level 5

What an interesting and fascinating post. It makes you wonder who wrote the love note and who received it! I have a Hawaii note and a North Africa note in my collection for some of the same reasons you state in your post.

Golfer

Level 5

Awesome note. To hold something like that is amazing. Written note from so long ago. Thanks for posting.

Mokie

Level 6

Very nice example, one can imagine this note being sent to the mainland from some Hawaii stationed Marine to his Sweetie (er HON). Coins and currency that have a story to tell are the best. Hermetically sealed MS70 slab queens hardly ever whisper an engaging word. Thanks for sharing your wonderful Love Snorter.

Mr_Norris_LKNS

Level 4

"Love Snorter"! Haha, I love it! I think we've found its name. :-)

Mike

Level 7

Absoluty enjoyable blog . Im a big history buff. The note well that.speaks for itself. Thanks for that. Mike

Longstrider

Level 6

What a nice note to view in these crummy times. Thanks..

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