WWII Impact on Fashion

From Victory Gardens to gasoline rationing, a lot of sacrifices were made on America’s “home front” during World War II. It may surprise you to know that rationing even impacted the world of fashion!

Before the War, silk stockings were a necessary part of every woman’s wardrobe.  No decent woman would be seen in public without her hose and stockings.  In 1938, during the New York World’s Fair, nylon stockings were introduced to the world for the first time.  Hitting the market on May 14th, 1940, every woman needed a pair and rushed in to buy them by the millions!  They were so immediately and widely popular that 75,000 pairs were sold in their first day of release.  After only a year, 64 million of them sat in drawers and closets across America.  They quickly became an integral part of any classy woman’s daily attire.

Stamp & Coin Place Vintage Ads

Stamp & Coin Place Vintage Ads

Affordable, long-lasting and wrinkle-free, the nylon stocking nearly stopped the production of previous hosiery in its tracks.  During the War it turned out that the men needed them more than the women did!  Nylon was found to be the perfect material for manufacturing parachutes and supplies for our troops.  Raw silk was also seized by the Office of Production Management, causing a very limited supply to be sold while reluctant women had to purchase their nylon stockings for $10 a pair.  Supportive of American efforts, women across the country were called upon to give up their stockings to the effort.

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Because of the huge shortage of stockings, the women back home had to make do.  While some went around bare-legged, reserving their last pair of stockings for special occasions, treating them with immense care, others began faking it.

Nylon stockings were such a style symbol at the time that it seemed graceless to go on with out them.  Many women began penciling in lines on their legs to recreate the appearance of stockings using eyeliner or an eyebrow pencil.  These “drawn on stockings” were normalized so that cosmetic companies such as Max Factor began manufacturing “liquid stockings” which could be drawn on and look great for three days (if you didn’t shower).  Rain became a challenge of its own!

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Through the sacrifices of the War, fashion never failed.  As the War came to an end and rations were eased, nylon found its way back to thousands of longing women crowded around stores to snag a pair.  Helen Beaubier recalls that “after the War was over [she] heard Penny’s had nylon stockings”.  She remembers: “I ran out of the house and was going to run down to the store and get nylons and I got a pair and they were thick and they wouldn’t stay up; they were…just awful those first nylons that came”.  In Pittsburgh, 40,000 women formed a mile-long line competing over just 13,000 pairs.  This became known as the “Nylon Riots” of 1945.  The invention of lycra, in 1958, finally put a rest to the nylon craze, but goes to show that “in difficult times, fashion is always outrageous.” (Elsa Schiaparelli)

We’d love to hear your personal experiences with rationing during the War!  Please share with us on our Facebook or Twitter!

Megalodon Teeth

Megalodons once ruled the oceans!  In fact, they are thought to be the largest and most domineering predators in vertebrae history.  Their given name “Megalodon” appropriately translates to “big tooth” in Ancient Greek.  Though we can only guess about the habits and characteristics of these giant prehistoric beasts, their thousands of teeth give us some solid insight.

Tooth size and spare fossil remnants suggest that the Megalodon looked a little something like the modern Great White Shark (if it were 70 feet long weighing in at 100 tons).  Because they were primarily formed of hard cartilage, their fossils are few and far between.  Teeth are our primary means of knowledge and identification and are one of the oldest collectibles today for those who desire a glimpse into the past about 15.9 million years.

Like most collectibles, rarity comes with a pretty price tag.  There are several things to take into account when collecting these ginormous teeth:

Size matters.  Where two to five inch teeth are relatively common, teeth larger than five inches are highly desirable.  The size of a Megalodon tooth can offer insight into the size of the animal or what part of the mouth the tooth came from.  With about 276 teeth at a time, there’s a lot of variation in these chompers.  Teeth five to seven inches are extremely valuable, ranging in price from $500 for a 5 inch tooth, to over $1000 for a 7 inch one.

Megalodon tooth beside two Great White teeth

Megalodon tooth beside two Great White teeth

Oddly enough, the color of the tooth can help determine its value.  Fossilized teeth can take on any color since they absorb the sediments of their surroundings and therefore many of them are grey or black.  Color can be used to tell location of the Megalodon.  Blackish colored teeth are typically found in tidal rivers of the South Eastern United States, where larger quantities of phosphate exist.  Colorful teeth are more rare and therefore more valuable as collectibles.  Megalodons were resilient and able to live comfortably in a rage of temperatures.  Their mobility can be discovered in teeth scattered across the world.

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Like pennies, Megalodon teeth have grades.  The condition of the tooth is essential in determining the price.  After millions of years, a complete root with intact enamel baring sharp serrated edges is an amazing find and is highly valuable.  Chipped teeth or ones with considerable damage are much more common and more difficult to gauge information from.

With such a range of around the world, Megalodon teeth can be purchased for anywhere from $20 to $30 and well into the thousands of dollars.  The most expensive one that sold on Ebay in recent months went for $5000.  Though quality and color are important to collectors, the Megalodon is well-known for its size, making that the most desirable characteristic in a brilliant tooth collection.  It is astounding to imagine such a massive creature and almost overwhelming to think of a ten-ton bite force when compared to the “puny 600 pound” bite of a lion.  Not often do humans get a tangibly accessible view into the past…way into the past.  Whether you’re a collector or simply an enthusiast of life, Megalodon teeth offer an age old perspective that surpasses our grasp of time, size and rationality.  The Megalodon, once the largest

animal in existence, left its mark on Earth.

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Origins of the U.S. Postal Service

Thinking about taking a trip down to the Post Office conjures up images of long lines and regulated service in an age of instantaneous communication through text messaging and the internet.  But looking back on the history of Postal Service, the transportation of information was a privilege of the utmost relevance.

The importance of long distance communication was recognized by the early North American colonies and several programs were initiated but none took into account the vastness of all the colonies.  With a limited scope and disjointed function, these independent services failed.

In 1691, Thomas Neale petitioned for a grant from the British Crown for the establishment of a North American Postal Service.  On February 17th of 1691, he heard his response from regents William and Mary, giving him the funds “to erect, settle and establish…an office or offices for receiving and dispatching letters and pacquets, and to receive, send and deliver the same under such rates and sums of money as the planters shall agree to give, and to hold and enjoy the same for the term of twenty-one years.”

PostRoad

Excited, Neale wasted no time in appointing Andrew Hamilton, New Jersey Governor as deputy postmaster with the first official service up and running by 1692.  Postage rates were standardized and a Post Office erected in each Virginia town.  When Neale’s patent expired in 1710, Parliament advanced the English postal system to support the colonies.  The head office was established in New York City.

All was fine and dandy with this system until the Revolutionary War which seated Philadelphia as the information hub of the new nation, collapsing the English postal service.  The postal service found necessity in the expedited transportation of news, laws, military and political intelligence.  Newspapers were distributed among the thirteen states as journalists began reaching more people at a lower cost.  Overthrowing the English based postal service, the United States postal Service was created on July 26th, 1775 by the decree of the Second Continental Congress.  It was initially led by Benjamin Franklin, previous colonial postmaster.

Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net). [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photograph by Mike Peel

Seventeen years later The Post office Department was created in 1792 in order to establish Post Offices and Post roads by Constitutional authority.  Representative of core American values, the 1792 law guaranteed low-cost access to information while sanctifying personal correspondence and privacy.

As the country grew West, Post Offices began popping up across the land.  To most efficiently reach far away places, this new service operated on a hub and spoke system in which Washington was the hub.  By 1869, the USPS had gained so much leverage that it contained 27,000 local Post Offices and began utilizing railroad mail cars.  The USPS influenced national expansion crucially.  Supplying a quick and affordable way to communicate increased migration to the West, encouraging trade and business ventures while maintaining political relevance.  Aside from practicality, the easy spread of information bolstered a sense of nationalism in a blooming country, providing a necessary infrastructure in establishing the new frontier!

So next time you complain about a letter getting lost in the mail or not having mail service on Sundays, remember the long history of the Post in this county and the value of sharing information in America!

National Bank Notes | A Story

At the Stamp & Coin Place, we come across large amounts of varying currency every day.  We like to believe that each note tells a story.  This is the story of the National Bank Note .

Up until the American Civil War, state banks issued their own unique banknotes.  That changed in 1863 when the National Banking Act required federal regulation to issue National Bank Notes.  The Office of Comptroller of the Currency claimed administrative responsibility of the chartering of banks and issuing of National Bank Notes.  To encourage the hurried implementation of these new notes, the federal government placed a 2%  tax on state banknotes.  To speed the conversion to the new system, the tax was increased annually to 10% and then up to 20% before they became obsolete.

Stamp & Coin Place National Bank Note Stamp & Coin Place National Bank Note

For the next seventy years National Bank Notes were issued by banks all over the country including U.S. territories.  Banks with federal charter deposited bonds in the United States treasury so that banks could then issue notes worth up to 90% of the bond value with the understanding that the federal government would back the value of the notes.  The government was able to back the notes because the demand was high enough to support the new system.  The new system effectively monetized federal debt.  Bonds functioning as collateral maintained circulation privilege and their interest made them preferable for National Banks.
Each National Bank Note is unique in its markings.  Individual characteristics along with a rich history make these notes appreciable collectibles.  Each note bears the issuing bank’s national charter number as well as a serial number given by the bank.  Notes with low serial numbers are excellent collectibles and were even recognized as having particular value as they were being printed.  The officers who signed them realized their potential collectible worth and often kept them as souvenirs.

National Bank Notes are physically much different in appearance than the currency we use today.  They are predominantly large (with smaller notes nearing the program’s end).  The large notes displayed two serial numbers, a treasury serial number which indicated the number of notes per series and the bank serial number, indicating the notes and denomination of notes printed specifically by the issuing bank.  They bore four signatures, two of the Treasurer of the United States and Register of Treasury and two by the bank’s President and cashier.  They were often cut with scissors and many are uneven or display signatures split between two notes.  The faces on these bills were many and varying; not immediately distinguishable by denomination.

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Small sized bank notes took on a different appearance along with greater continuity and attention to detail.  Design characteristics included the same portrait per denomination and similar decorative features.  These changes influenced US. currency from the 1920’s up until the early 1990’s.  Elaborate, unique details and signatures were conformed to a simple bank stamp and serial.

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These notes constituted a fairly effective means of trade until the Great Depression when legal tender was limited to Federal Reserve Notes, United States Notes and Silver Certificates.  Privately issued banknotes were ousted and thus found their official place in the collector’s world.

Because of their unique appeal, National Bank Notes are often referred to as “hometown notes”.  With much variation and specific markings, it’s easy to see why they they are highly collected, especially in the United States today.  While larger issuance batches are inexpensive, notes from rare banks, towns and states can be quite valuable.  A single note sold in 2010 at a Walla Walla Heritage Auction for $161,000.  

Each note tells its own tale has the ability to take one back to a time and place before.  At the Stamp & Coin Place, we are curious about the past as it leaves its mark on the present.  Check out some of our rare National Bank Notes at The Stamp & Coin Place shop!