1933, American History Museum
During the Great Depression, cash took on a very different look
When banking failures made hard currency scarce, Americans turned to scrip—as much as $1 billion of the temporary money circulated during the crisis. Most was printed on paper, but some towns used whatever was at hand, even old tires and fish skin. In Pismo Beach, California, the chamber of commerce and 11 local businesses traded the plentiful pismo clamshell. This 50-cent piece, issued by Restwell Cabins, bears the motto “In God We Trust” and was numbered and signed in India ink. Other shells fetched more “clams”—up to $20.