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  • Writer's pictureRicki King

No Money Shortage Here

I learned of a new museum, well new to me today. Very fascinating and unexpected. You can find the museum in Okoboji, Iowa. Why is it captivating? The museum is all about money. The Higgins Museum, also known as the Museum of Money's official name is The William R. Higgins, Jr. Foundation, Inc. National Bank Note Museum and Library have been around since 1978. I am amazed my love of museums did not lead me to this gem until now.

Their website states, "The Museum … is purposed with the acquisition, preservation, and display of the notes, related artifacts and pertinent reference materials relating to the National Bank Note issuance era."

Yes, we see money or paper money every day or most days before this pandemic. Stop it, I know what you are thinking, and you're mistaken. This paper money is different. This paper money was not issued by the federal government but by local banks within a state. The bills are called National currency or notes. They are not all the same and come in a variety of styles, some have a little color, and few have the recognized faces we think of should be on our money. Most, if not all, have the words "United States of America" and include the county and state of issuance.

There is a movement going on to support local businesses. Let's not forgot our local museums. These are where the gems of local history and some national history are waiting for you. Check out the Higgins Museum of National Bank Notes located at 1507 Sanborn Ave, Okoboji, Iowa.

Due to Covid-19, the Higgins museum has not opened yet. They expect to open Independence weekend, but that may change. Contact them directly to verify if they have opened. In the meantime, check out the Higgins Museum. I will be taking a drive in the near future to see the notes in person. As well as the historic antique spider currency printing press on display and loan from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Photos of bills courtesy of Higgins Museum of National Bank Notes.

As a side note, the curator of the Higgins Museum Larry Adams shared with me another unknown fact. This time about a couple of coins with Black men on them. Each coin is commemorative but was used and put in circulation. The museum does not have these coins. Larry felt I might be interested in knowing about them, and he was correct.

Booker T. Washington commemorative coin with his image issued from 1946-1951. The reverse has the legend "FROM SLAVE CABIN TO HALL OF FAME." The back also contains in the image of the slave cabin where Booker T. was born and the Hall of Fame for Great Americans located on the grounds of Bronx Community College in the Bronx, New York City. The coins are both half dollar or 50 cent pieces designed by Isaac Scott Hathaway. (I used the Wikipedia page in the Hall of Fame link because it gives more details than the link to the Bronx Community College. The school is currently fundraising to help preserve the portrait busts. To learn more about their fundraising and some of the portrait busts.)

The second coin issued from 1951-1954 contains the images of George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington side by side. The reserve is not as ornate as the Booker T. coin. It includes a map of the United States with the U.S.A. emblazed over the map with the words "FREEDOM AND OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL AMERICANISM." Wikipedia reads the original inscription was "United Against the Spread of Communism."

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