Beer, Peanuts, and everything else about the Stadium Experience. Except the game.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Benjamin Franklin

  • Cardinals: 6
  • Phillies: 14
  • Sold: Innumerable beers, waters, and frozen lemonades.
Ultimately, apart from the incidental exercise and entertainment and eccentric beermen and ballpark goofiness that the job of vending provides, it all comes down to making money. Especially when I'm leaving home to work all the way up in Philly to get it. This is has been a plenty solid homestand with only one game to go, and I've been making a decent bit of jingle for my troubles.

I now have a pocketful of tips -- mostly in singles and fives, which accumulate day to day and make me look like either an poor man's ganster, or the most dedicated strip club patron in history -- one of which is a $100 bill. Normally I trade those in to pay back the room for beer sold, but my room manager rejected this one when it didn't pass his special marking pen test. Was I in the possession of a counterfeit bill? Not necessarily. The manager pointed out that it was probably made out of different paper and security features...since it was made in 1950. Upon closer inspection I saw that it did say "SERIES 1950," right below old Ben's oval portrait and the orderly cursive scrawled signature of "John W. Snyder," Secretary of the Treasury.

All the time I see dollar bills with stamped on them, which allows one to track the bill's history as it travels from hand to hand and place to place, but there's no "where's Ben" site. Who knows how this bill survived almost 60 years in circulation, what mattress or shoebox it had lain under or in to preserve it? And what might it be worth?* Not too terribly much; a quick search on the net indicated that a dealer might value it at up to $125 in mint condition, but it was in weathered, rumpled shape when I got it, and it was further drenched by vendor's sweat by the end of the afternoon. So all things considered, it's not too hard to assign a probable collectible value to it: $100. If it's not fake.

Interesting differences between it and a more recent C-note: Treasurer and Treasury Secretary are different, as are the guarantees denoted on the front left side -- the current bill bears the familiar "THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE"; the old bill had added to it: "..., AND IS REDEEMABLE IN LAWFUL MONEY AT THE UNITED STATES TREASURY, OR AT ANY FEDERAL RESERVE BANK." I'd never fully considered that the 'Federal Reserve Notes' we tote around in our pocket are not actually 'lawful money.'

The security features mandated in the 1990's leave the newer bill less symmetrical than the 1950 version, and the off-center, oversize portrait of Ben Franklin on my 1996 bill (which now nests in my wallet next to his older papa version) makes him look more dour and disapproving that the quizzical, inquisitive Ben that mid-century Americans were toting around in their hip pockets. The old Ben looks lively and creative, the kind of guy who might fly a kite in a lightning storm to see what would happen. Our current Benjamin looks ready to rap your knuckles for writing left-handed.

One the reverse, side Philly's Independence Hall is there on both bills in a similar front elevation layout. One significant difference: the familiar "IN GOD WE TRUST" bookending the Hall's central tower. It's there on the 1996 bill, absent on the 1950 bill. US currency apparently didn't carry this motto until Congressional mandate in 1951. One can only determine that Americans have become more religious in the last half-century.

*Last year during Phillies playoff game, another vendor asked me to check out a dollar bill he'd gotten. It looked strange to him, he said, and it looked strange to me too. It was crisp and new-looking, almost perfectly preserved, and it turned out to be a blue-sealed Silver Certificate dollar bill. Collectible probably, and amazing to have been received amid the beery foam and soggy steps of a ballpark, and in such perfect shape. The vendor decided to keep it, then folded it in half -- creasing it down the middle -- and shoved it in his wallet.

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