Gee Whillickers!

Shinplasters – Funny Money That Was No Laughing Matter

If You Want Something Done Right, Print Your Own Money?
The economies and banking of early America were as wild as the frontier. So wild that in the mid-1800s through the Civil War, banks, merchants and the filthy stinking rich of the time started printing their own money! Shinplasters.


The odd name, shinplaster, comes from the inferior quality of the paper. It was so cheap that, with a bit of starch, it could be used to make papier-mâché-like plasters that people put under socks to warm their shins.

shin what?

Making an Ass of the Culprits
The favorite decorative element for the designs of these maverick bills were demonized illustrations of the men considered responsible for the economic panic. Cracking whips, made into monsters and animals or put into women’s clothing – anything went.

Can Anyone Break a Quarter?
The reason for these homemade, small denomination bills was primarily to make change. Change like pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters were scarce or not available at all in some parts due to the emergency suspension of coin minting.

The Buck Stops Here
The government put an end to what it called “bank rags” and by 1890 also outlawed the private currency some mills and factories were using that were credits only redeemable at their own company stores.

Here’s a printed 5¢ bill and a nickel from 1862. The Federal Government answered the hoarding of coins and precious metals in the shaky economy with their own fractional currency. But it was a “never cry wolf” situation; confidence was already weak.


Inspired Ideas!


ORIGINAL? – 2008
Davivienda Bank


Western Union

historic monuments

ORIGINAL? – 2004
Fund for preservation of historical monuments

wildlife sos

Wildlife SOS

Gee Whillickers!

dummy ad

Some things you just don’t think about, but they make perfect sense when you hear about them. For instance, every sewage treatment plant in America goes on a special overload alert during big annually televised events like the Super Bowl (during commercial breaks). Another, more relevant and less gruesome example is the fact that a large number of regulations and laws exist for printing anything with money depicted in a design.

An ad that has a straight-on photograph of a properly scaled one dollar bill is illegal. You’re right! It seems silly, sure, but anti-counterfeit laws actually come into play. It’s pretty funny to imagine that someone might clip out a picture of a bill from a magazine and find someone thick enough to take it as payment for something.

The regulations all boil down to making the representation of money different enough so as to not be confused with real money. Yeah. Still sounds dumb, but here is the list of the kinds of varied attributes needed to make a legal reproduction of money:

  • Different size
  • Different color
  • One-sided only
  • Partial surface area
  • Different angle
  • Labelled or watermarked
  • Alternate material