Piggy Banks Taboo in 1917 – One, Five and Ten-Cent Coin Shortage

Back in 1917 during World War I, the one-cent (penny), five-cent (nickel) and ten-cent (dime) coins were in short supply.

A newspaper article from November 1917 worried about the coin shortage during the upcoming holiday:

“Coin Hoarding Taboo; New Saving Plan Urged

“WASHINGTON. Nov. 2. –Penny hoarding and small coin savings banks were placed on the official taboo list today by Raymond T. Baker, director of the mint, who declared the country is threatened with a severe shortage of cents, dimes and other small ‘change’ for the approaching holiday shopping season. He appealed to persons who collect small coins as a savings hobby to exchange them for coins of larger denomination, or for currency, to relieve the shortage. Children, particularly, were asked to do their bit.

“In order that people may not abandon their savings habits while complying with the government’s suggestion, the treasury will put into effect, soon, the system of war savings.”

Now, interestingly, the World War I bonds, called the Liberty Bonds, had already been offered.

In April 1917, the Emergency Loan Act issued $5 billion of the bonds at 3.5 percent. In Oct 1917, the Second Liberty Loan offered $3 billion at 4 percent.

Human nature, though, was skeptical of this “new” investment, and many people would not buy the bonds.

Secretary of the Treasury McAdoo began a PR campaign using many popular movie stars and singers of the day to promote the patriotism of buying bonds for the war effort.

In 1918, the treasury department issued two more sets of bonds, $3 billion in April at 4.5 percent and $6 billion in September at 4.25 percent.

Through the bond sales, the government did raise money for the war effort; however, the majority of the sales were to financial institutions not to individuals.

In addition to their innate skepticism, people did not respond favorably to the forceful sales atmosphere with their coercive and bullying tactics.

People probably did not appreciate the humble piggy bank being put on the taboo list either.

Small Coins - Penny, Nickel, Dime and a piggy bank