Sales Tax Tokens. What are they?

In today’s world, in most states, sales tax is common place.  We pay it, we accept it and we move on.  At the turn of the 20th century, this was not the case.  Although several countries around the world had a sales tax of some sort, the idea had not been brought to the United States yet.

In 1921, a national 1% sales tax was proposed in a national finance bill.  It was not passed, much to the delight of farmers and other labor interests.  The state of  West Virginia took it upon themselves to implement a state wide sales tax of 1%, which would serve as an example for the rest of country later on.

By 1929, the Great Depression had struck and state governments were trying desperately to make up for the great loss in income tax and out pouring of relief funding due to the overwhelming increase in unemployment.  Many states started to look at West Virginia’s sales tax as a viable option for making up some of the lost revenue.  In 1929, Georgia adopted a state sales tax and by 1933, 11 other states had followed suit.

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The one main problem with sales tax was the odd sales totals that were created.  The basic idea is as follows: Retailers would pay a tax on everything they sold.  This added cost was passed on to the consumer.  If, for example, a person bought something for 10 cents (remember, this is the 1930’s) and there was a 3% sales tax, the total for the item would be 10 cents plus three tenths of a cents for the tax.  Being as there was no three-tenths of a cent coin, the retailer would either lose money by rounding down, or upset the customer and over collect by rounding up.

Enter the sales tax token.

$1LENCE D00600D at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

$1LENCE D00600D at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sales tax tokens allowed for merchants to round up to the nearest cent with out over collecting (making a 10 cent item 11 cents).  The customer would pay the additional tax, and in exchange would receive a tax token that could be used to pay the sales tax on their next 10 cent purchase since, technically, they already paid it.

Confused yet?

Not only did people have to remember to bring their tax tokens along with them, but with over 500 different types and denominations from 12 states, people quickly grew confused and didn’t know what to use when or where.

$1LENCE D00600D at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

$1LENCE D00600D at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By the time World War II rolled around, ration tickets and food stamps were handed out, adding to the confusion.  Most states began dropping tax tokens altogether.  Missouri was the only state to come out of WWII with tax tokens still on their books.  In 1961, they finally dropped them.

By 1969, all but 5 states had enacted some type of sales tax and today that number remains the same today.  Although we no longer use tokens to keep things even, they do still exist in the world of collectibles.  We just came across some in our shop a few weeks ago. and have them listed on Ebay.  Check them out and consider adding this neat piece of history to your collection today.

Don’t Take Any Wooden Nickels

Wooden Nickels first made their debut in the 1930’s, mostly in the State of Washington, as a response to the need for currency during the Depression.  When banks started failing, cities turned to other forms of currency to keep trade alive.

One thing that kept trade going, temporarily, in cities like Tenino and Blaine, Washington (see our previous blog), were wood nickels.  Made from pressed wood, merchants entered into agreement with the city’s chamber of commerce and began accepting wooden nickels instead of paper money for goods.

In order for this idea to work, shoppers had to trust that all merchants would accept the wooden nickels they received from the city.  Merchants had to trust that the city would take the wood nickels back in exchange for real money or gold.  Overall, the idea was not completely successful.  Most wooden nickels came with an expiration date, meaning you were out of luck if you had one past that date.  It was also quite common for people, particularly visitors to the area, to simply keep them as souvenirs.

Once the immediate need had passed, wood was outlawed as currency.  Banks, stores and other merchants still issued wooden nickels as souvenirs or for promotion, but they were essentially worthless beyond that.   Out of this arrangement was born the phrase, “Don’t take any wooden Nickels.”

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Commonly used as a warning, “Don’t take any wooden nickels” meant not to get taken advantage of.  To be careful.   For example, “Have a great trip, and don’t take any wooden nickels.”  It was especially common to hear this phrase if you were heading into the city.

Today, we don’t really hear this phrase too often, except maybe from the mouths of our grandparents.  Although people no longer try to slip a wooden nickel in with our change, the warning behind the words is just as important!

Straight From the Horse’s Mouth

The English language can be confusing.  Certainly, many of our idioms have fallen behind the times.  Hold the phones – What phones?  Don’t have a cow! – Surely, I’ll pass.  Where did these phrases come from and why have they stuck around despite their falling out with modern technology and culture?

On my morning walk I heard someone mention that they had “heard it straight from the horse’s mouth”.  Well, unless his horse is Mr. Ed, it seems quite unlikely that the man and his horse had a chat over breakfast and coffee.  Who’s to say the horse’s information would even be slightly reliable; or more reliable than say, hearing something straight from a person’s mouth?

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The phrase “straight from the horse’s mouth” has become an idiom.  An idiom is a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words.  What meaning do we deduct from this word cluster?

We take the phrase “straight from the horse’s mouth” to mean getting information from an authoritative or credible source.  It might seemingly indicate that horses know best, however the phrase has an unexpected origin.

One possible origin comes from buying and selling horses back before the invention of the automobile.  As a means of labor and transportation, horses were very valuable in American civilization.  When buying a horse it was very important to obtain information about the animal’s health history and extenuating attributes, similarly to the way someone today would want to know the details about a car for purchase.  Apparently an excellent way to gage a horse’s age is by looking at its teeth, literally getting the facts straight from the horse’s mouth despite seller chicanery.  In one of my personal favorites, ‘Fiddler on the Roof”, Tevye discloses to a man that the allegedly six year old horse he was sold actually turned out to be twelve.  “It was twelve!  It was tweeeelve!” he shouts during the iconic opening scenes as the town sings of “traditions, traditions“!

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Another possible origin relates to horse racing.  When betting on a horse, gamblers would put their money behind someone “in the know” who possessed that golden tidbit of information.  How’d they bet on the winning horse?  Why, they heard it straight from the horse’s mouth!  The people who you’d imagine have the best conjectures about which horse might win are the trainers and stable boys.  So, to say that it was heard straight from the horse’s mouth humorously suggests that someone is a step ahead of even the inner circle of stable boys, hearing it from the horse himself.

Though you’d never guess that’s where a phrase we use all the time and understand the meaning of comes from, it seems to have stuck through the decades.  Though most of us don’t go around checking horses’ mouths to see if they’re a good purchase or spend our Sunday afternoons at the race track, you can be sure to trust it if you heard it from the horse’s mouth!

Collecting Linen Postcards

Linen postcards’ misleading name suggests postcards made out of fabric, but that is far from the case. They’re in fact made of paper: a textured, high quality paper.

What really makes linen postcards stand out is their saturated colors on top of the textured material. The card stock has a high rag content, meaning a higher content of cotton fiber and generally better quality. The embossed paper allows for quicker-drying ink, too.

Linen postcard were printed from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. Linen postcards usually had white borders, a carry-over from postcards between WWI and the 1920’s.

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Curt Teich Co. of Chicago printed the most linen postcards. Each postcard was numbered, making them easy to distinguish from each other and be carefully collected based on the number. Curt Teich also produced the famous “large letter” linen postcards, those cards popular among tourists and fans of the shining pinnacle of road trip-era America.

The categories of linen postcards vary; popular categories include scenics, comics, and travel postcards.

Do you collect linen postcards? As you can see, they’re easy to distinguish from other types of postcards. Let us know if you collect them, and what topics you like to collect, in the comments!

Looking for some more linen postcards of your own? Check no further than our ebay store!

Collecting Vintage Hatpins

As some of the more obscure and intricate types of jewelry, hat pins have been all but lost in the memory of fashion.

Hats in history weren’t always made with practicality in mind. Many hats did not stick to their wearers’ heads without help. This is where hatpins came in.

Hatpins were invented in the 1850’s to pin down straw hats, and reached their popularity peak between the 1890’s and 1920’s. The stems of the pins reached as long as 12 inches at one point.

Hatpins are beauties of their own. Tiny, detailed ornaments on the end of the pins like flowers, leaves or jewels decorate the hatpins. They started out with simple designs and became more detailed over time. The most common was a black or white bead on a pin, a basic design that went with everything.

If you collect hatpins, it’s important to keep an eye out for fakes. Sellers will pass pins that are not genuine off as vintage or antique.

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Types of fake hatpins include (source):

Fantasies – hatpin styles that don’t come from any particular period, but are sold as if they are authentic historical pieces.

Reproductions – hatpins that resemble pins from a specific period, but are actually brand new.

Marriages – A melding of new and old, where either the stem or the top is an old piece combined with new.

If you’re wondering about a hatpin, check one of the best sources, The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Hatpins and Hatpin Holders by Lillian Baker.

 

The 1909 Seattle Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition

See the amazing, fantastic Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition through vintage postcards!

The Pacific Northwest has its own reasons to show off, and the 1909 Seattle Exposition gave the perfect opportunity. It’s mouthful of a name, so Alaska-Yukon-Pacific is often simply shortened to A-Y-P.

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The Secretary of the Arctic Brotherhood, Godfrey Chealander, pitched the idea for an Alaska exhibit in Seattle. Soon, the idea escalated into an exhibition pitch, piggy-backing off of the recent Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, Oregon.

In 1905, Seattle’s University of Washington had only three buildings surrounded by forest. Planners proposed to build the exposition on the campus, which would also do the university a favor.

Unlike many other world expositions, everything was ready by the fair’s June opening, with minimal scrambling to finish things at the last minute.

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Japanese and Canadian buildings supported the fair’s Pacific theme, and local buildings or symbols, like a model of a Washington state coal mine, stood as representations of the Northwest.

On “Seattle Day”, the fair had its highest attendance rate. Some called the exposition the “World’s Most Beautiful Fair.”

The fair was largely successful, but did have one major controversy. “Human Exhibits” were more popular back then, but the A-Y-P really took the cake: the fair set up a month-old orphan boy named Ernest as a raffle prize. However, no one came to claim him, and no records show what happened to him.

In the end, the A-Y-P was a big success. It didn’t even need financial assistance from the government, thanks to clever marketing and publicity.

Looking for vintage World Fair postcards? Look no further.

The Prominent Americans Stamp Series

Between 1965 and 1978, as part of their regularly issued series the Postal Service issued the Prominent Americans series. You can probably guess the faces on the stamps based on the name of the series: famous Americans like Thomas Jefferson, Frank Lloyd Wright, Albert Einstein, and John F. Kennedy are just a few examples of the well-known figures featured on the stamps.

The Prominent Americans Series came after the Liberty issue which featured prominent patriotic figures and locations. The Americans Series emerged from a desire for more modernity in stamp options.

Despite being one series, the stamps had a number of different font and image styles to keep things fresh.

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The original Washington stamp design with the “dirty face”.

The series was not without its own complications: the 5 cent Washington stamp had more shading than necessary on his face, making it look unshaven or dirty. Later issues of Washington had a lighter, cleaned up face.

But despite that the series was popular in emphasizing patriotic, American themes in the world of philately. Looking at each individual stamp emphasizes the individuality of each important character in American history…Even if that individuality meant having an unshaven face.

The 1907 Jamestown Exposition

In 1607, Jamestown was founded in Virginia. And three hundred years later, the U.S. wanted to commemorate the famous event. Event planners thought it impossible to set up the exposition at the original site of Jamestown; the area was abandoned and not geographically convenient for large volumes of visitors. Because of this, the site of Norfolk was eventually decided on. Norfolk, Virginia sits close enough to Jamestown and is today a large, thriving city.

Event planners set the location of the exposition at Sewell’s Point, a beautiful location but a difficult one to construct on because of its isolation. They had to build roads just to get to the site! This foreshadowed a number of different preparation issues. Most difficult of all, Fitzhugh Lee, the Governor of Virginia and president of the Norfolk City Council, died in 1905 while working on the project.

The Exposition opened on April 26, 1907, exactly three hundred years after colonists first landed in Virginia. Similar to other World Fairs in the past, the Jamestown Exposition had a rough start. On opening day, only one fifth of the lights were able to turn on, and multiple buildings and sites were not completed. Constructors even failed to finish two buildings by the exposition’s end. But President Theodore Roosevelt himself personally opened the exposition!

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A difficult start didn’t have to forebode a bad exposition – though setbacks did continue. Attendance never achieved projected numbers after the opening day, and the fair did not make enough to pay back a million dollar loan.

But the show did have its successes. One of the most popular was the recreation of the Battle of Hampton Roads, a battle between the warships USS Monitor and CSS Virginia. This epic battle between ships was one of the changing points for Virginia in the 17th century; the exposition built a whole building around the model. Military prowess was a common theme for the exposition, which some visitors protested.

Overall, the exposition was not a big success. It lost several million dollars thanks to a much lower attendance than expected. Too much ambition and poor planning ended up being the exposition’s downfall.

However, some great postcards came out of it! If you’re interested in vintage Jamestown Exposition postcards, you can find them here.

San Francisco’s 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition

The Panama-Pacific Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915 was a sight to behold. It took three years to build what turned out to be one of the most impressive expositions in America.

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You can get this postcard and the ones below at this link.

The official reason for the exposition was the newly finished Panama Canal, but many saw the event as the showcasing of the recovery of San Francisco after the earthquake of 1906. The earthquake set the city back significantly in a financial sense, and dimmed the city’s optimism for growth. But the exposition changed all that by bringing in millions of visitors and once again establishing San Francisco as a prominent city in the U.S.

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Twenty-four countries participated in the expo. The Tower of Jewels stood as the centerpiece of the event. Fake glass jewels covered all 435 feet of the tower, causing the tower to sparkle in the sunlight and shine under spotlights at night. In front of the tower stood the “Fountain of Energy”, right next to the Palace of Horticulture and the Festival Hall. Many other “Palaces” and “Halls” featured areas of growth in recent years, like transportation and agriculture. The Palace of Fine Arts particularly shone in its showcase, and it was the only building to be kept from the exposition. The building slowly fell into disrepair over the years, but it was renovated in the 1960’s and can still be visited today.

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The U.S. Post Office issued a set of four stamps in honor of the exposition, including a profile of Vasco Nunez de Balboa, the Pedro Miguel Locks of the Panama Canal, the Golden Gate Bridge, and San Francisco Bay.

The U.S. Mint also issued commemorative half dollar and gold coins.

Overall, the exposition was a huge success, pulling in over 18 million visitors over the event’s 10 months in session. And if you want to experience a piece of the glory of the fair, you can still visit the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

You can find more Pan-Pacific postcards at this link!

The Invention of Airmail that Swept the Nation

Before airmail was invented, shipping methods were much slower. (Homing pigeons had been used centuries before, but pigeons, to say the least, are not the most sophisticated form of transport.)

But some destinations were inaccessible unless accessed by airplane.

The story of the invention of the airplane is in itself a wonderful tale, but airmail enters the story through the first scheduled airmail service in the UK between North London and Berkshire in 1911. The event was part of the celebration of King George V’s coronation. This first service took 16 flights, carrying 35 bags of mail in total. It stopped only about a month after it started due to bad weather.

But the invention of the airplane was too useful to ignore. While the U.S. government was slow to adopt the incredible invention of the airplane, the U.S. Post Office expressed interest in the airplane early on. They tested a mail flight between Garden City and Mineola, NY. He dropped mail from the plane to the ground where the postmaster picked it up.

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The famous Jenny airplane.

The Post Office continued to conduct unofficial flights within different states between 1911 and 1912.

The first regular airmail system in the United States started in May 1918 with a route that ran between Washington, D.C. And New York City.

This is also where the famous Inverted Jenny stamp comes into play. Many of the original planes used to transport mail were Jenny training planes from the Army. The Jenny stamp was issued in 1918 in honor of the first airmail service – but things didn’t quite go as planned. You can read more here.

Airmail postage cost 24 cents.

Airmail continued to expand and grow in the U.S., and planes grew safer as time went on.

Of course, airmail was quite popular with stamp collectors. Philatelists often went out of their way to find the first airmail flights to send letters and collect the cancels from such flights.