Did You Know That Eaton Rapids Made Its Own Money?
Deb Malewski
Contributing Writer
Larry Comer, owner of the Pocket Change Coin Shop in Eaton Rapids for 30 years, has something that’s extremely rare; legal tender, ten- and twenty-dollar bills, with the words “The First National Bank of Eaton Rapids” printed on them. He has nine bills of the locally issued currency and is always on the lookout for more.
One of the oldest bills that he owns is a $10 bill that a woman who was a bank teller received from a customer. She knew she had something interesting and bought it from the bank at face value. She and her husband brought it to Comer to sell. In addition to having people walk in to sell him one of these special pieces of currency, he also finds things at coin shows and online auctions.
The bills clearly state at the top that they are “Secured by United States bonds deposited with the Treasurer of the United States of America,” and also that they are “Redeemable in lawful money of the United States of America at the United States Treasury or at the bank of issue.” They were not considered “legal tender” but were satisfactory for nearly all payments to and by the federal government, according to online sources.
Although they came in every denomination, most of the Eaton Rapids notes were either $10 or $20 and are dated for 1929, Comer said. They came in two different sizes, depending on when they were printed. There was $429,890 in national currency printed for Eaton Rapids National Bank. Charlotte banks also issued their own currency.
The banks were required to maintain a redemption fund equal to 5% of any outstanding note balance in gold or “lawful money.” They were considered a form of monetization of the Federal Debt. Banks with a federal charter could deposit funds in United States Treasury banks and then issue their own banknotes, at up to 90% of the bond value. The federal government would back the value of the notes, which created a demand for the government bonds which backed them.
The First National Bank of Eaton Rapids was granted its charter in 1877 and printed the bills until 1934. The assigned charter number for the Eaton Rapids bank, 2367, is printed on each bill. There are four signatures on the bills, the register of the treasury, the treasurer of the United States, the bank president, and the bank cashier.
On many of the bills, you will see the signature of Millard Densmore Crawford (1864-1955), hand-signing each bill as the president of the bank. In addition to being the bank president, Crawford also started an insurance agency known as Crawford Insurance Agency that is now Ackley-Peters-Haubert Insurance.
The bills were printed on uncut sheets of four and sent to the local banks to be signed and cut apart into individual bills. They would hand-cut the bills with scissors, which sometimes resulted in uneven borders and cuts into the decorative engraving on the bill.
The bills were retired in the 1930s when United States currency was consolidated into Federal Reserve Notes, United States Notes, and Silver Certificates, and the charter banks were closed.
Comer’s most recent acquisition is a 1929 First National Bank of Eaton Rapids $10 bill. He found it in an online auction and paid $1500 for it.
If you have an Eaton Rapids bill, Larry Comer would love to see it and maybe will even buy it from you. His Pocket Change Coin Shop is located at 121 South Main, downtown Eaton Rapids. You can reach him by phone at 517-285-3875.