Experience Our Heritage

The Case of the Exploding Wallet

The Case of the Exploding Wallet


Have you ever had so many things in your wallet that it just won’t close right anymore?  Your wallet has become so full it’s ready to explode?  The good news is that there’s a solution to your problem!  All you need is a money clip!  A money clip holds your money with a clasp that is small enough to fit in your pocket.  Money clips haven’t been around that long actually, it wasn’t until paper money was produced and there became a need to store it, that money clips were invented.  At the High Plains Museum we have two money clips both with unique designs on the front.

The earliest recorded use of paper money comes from 7th Century China.  It would a thousand years before Europe would adopt paper money however.  In the 16th Century goldsmith-bankers would accept deposits and would give the depositor a receipt.  The receipt was like an I.O.U. and was made out in the name of the depositor where it promised to pay the goldsmith-banker back on demand.  These receipts eventually turned into paper currency, which is used throughout the world.

In America, prior to the Revolutionary War, colonists used English, Spanish and French money.  To finance the War however the

High Plains Museum | C005 One silver dollar certificate, Hawaii over print
High Plains Museum |
C005
One silver dollar certificate, Hawaii over print

Continental Congress felt that the United States needed its own money, so Paul Revere made the first plates for the Continental currency.  On April 2,1792 Congress passed the “Mint Act” which established the coinage system and the dollar as the principal unit of currency.  Paper money however was not issued by the government until 1861.  Until 1914 paper currency in the United States had a lot of different looks and denominations.  While George Washington has been on the $1 bill since 1869, Abraham Lincoln replaced three presidents before appearing on the $5 bill in 1928.  Lincoln originally appeared on the $10 bill but was replaced by Alexander Hamilton in 1914.  The denomination of bills has ranged from three cents to $10,000 in the history of U.S. currency!  For more history about the currency in the U.S. visit these websites:  The History of U.S. Currency, Bureau of Engraving and Printing FAQ Library, and Presidential Money.

High Plains Museum | MC547 Metal money clip with car on front
High Plains Museum |
MC547
Metal money clip with car on front

With paper money being made people needed a way to contain it and money clips were invented.  Money clips have had a variety of materials from leather to metal, like the money clip we have in our collection here.  Money clips were also made of silver, gold, other precious metals and adorned with jewels.  With materials such as these it is no wonder that some viewed the money clip as a status symbol.  While money clips have come to be associated as a men’s accessory, that does not mean that women can’t use one.  Money clips are becoming a unisex object today with companies like Gucci and Fossil, among many others, making money clips for varying prices.  They can also come decorated with a huge variety of items on them.  The money clips we have in our collection are two inches by one inch, with one (on the left) being gold colored and has a car on the front and the other has a knife and file on it from the Goodland Champlin Service.  Other designs on money clips include skulls, tractors or eagles.  One can even get personalized money clips.

The first money clip patented in the United States was by Benso G. Deovich of Philadelphia in 1901.  His was a safety-holder for paper money which would clamp the money without cutting or tearing it and could be easily carried in a pocket.  Over the years many more people would make improvements on the money clip to get us to the clip we know today.

Without the advent of paper money we would never have seen the money clip.  The money clip is a way to keep loose bills contained and has been used for thousands of years in some form or fashion.  Similar to the wallet, money clips offer a slimmer way to carry your money.  They were seen as a status symbol by some and a necessary accessory for others.  Money clips come in all shapes and sizes and while most do not come with jewels on them anymore, one can find something that “screams” you, like the car on the front of our money clip.

Do you have a fancy money clip at home?  Can you think of an object that over the years has become unisex?  Share your thoughts and comments below.

Look for more posts in this series about our wonderful collection of Sherman County history.

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