The Kris Kringle Currency Collection

Posted on 12/17/2013

In celebration of the holiday season, PMG Researcher, Zachary Habermas takes a look at some Santa themed bank notes.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, although here in Sarasota it’s currently 80 degrees and sunny, so that’s not strictly true, but I thought we’d celebrate this holiday season by showing some examples of banknotes that have depictions of Santa Claus on them.

While you won’t find Santa Claus on any modern notes, there were a surprising amount of obsolete notes that depicted Saint Nick. These depictions ranged from the familiar to the downright creepy. While we generally see Santa Claus today as a fairly heavy man, this wasn’t always the case. The American version of Santa Claus was brought here by Dutch settlers in New York and was originally a much thinner man as seen by this note from the Knickerbocker Bank.

Banks had several reasons for creating notes with vignettes of Santa Claus. Since many of these banks failed after a few years, they wanted to create vignettes that would build confidence among their customers, and what could be a better confidence-builder than Santa Claus? Another, perhaps more important reason was that people would collect these notes and give them to children, keeping the bank afloat.

Some banks went a little extreme with this strategy, most notably the Saint Nicholas Bank in New York.

Other banks chose some more frightening versions of Santa Claus, shown below.

The depiction of Santa Claus that most closely matches ours today was the one created by the Howard Banking Co. as seen below. This one shows a heavier, bearded Santa Claus with a large sack of gifts in a sleigh being pulled by reindeer.

There are a few more examples out there all with slightly different depictions of Santa, but most showing him as much thinner than he is today. After the United States government took responsibility for printing money these notes became obsolete and thus no more were created, making some fairly rare.

So be on the lookout for these notes or, if you’ve been good, you might just find one of these in your stocking on Christmas morning.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday from all of us here at PMG!



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