Short Snorters

Posted on 11/15/2017

Short snorters, or banknotes signed by people traveling together, were popular among Alaskan Bush Pilots as well as servicemen and women during World War II.

The PMG way to honor our military men and women is to appreciate the numismatic tradition of short snorters. You may wonder, what is a short snorter? They are purported to have started from Alaskan Bush Pilots around the 1920s when the only way of getting around Alaska, much like it is today, was by plane. The crew for the flight would gather around and sign a dollar to mark the occasion. This helped build camaraderie and hopefully provided good luck for their journey together. The owner of the dollar would then have to carry this marker from the event at all times. If asked to show the dollar at a later date and couldn’t produce it, the owner would have to buy the signer a drink. This is where the name comes from. Short snort was slang for a small alcoholic beverage much like a shot of liquor.

$1 1935A N. Africa - WWII Emergency Issue, Fr#2306, Short Snorter, front
PMG graded 35 Choice Very Fine
Click image to enlarge.

$1 1935A N. Africa - WWII Emergency Issue, Fr#2306, Short Snorter, back
PMG graded 35 Choice Very Fine
Click image to enlarge.

The tradition started to take hold in the US military as it entered World War II. Soldiers began to make their own short snorts with fellow servicemen as they were shipped around the world. They found an easy way to start a conversation or win a drink on R.R. was to compare their short snorters. One of the popular games was to see who had the least signatures on theirs and whoever did would have to buy the next round of drinks. These “icebreakers” didn’t have to be on anything in particular but what most soldiers had on hand was the cash in their pockets. So the most common varieties of short snorters are found on money of the time period for the war. Examples have been seen on Silver Certificates, Operation Torch Silver Certificates, US Hawaii notes, and world notes. The short snorter was quite popular in this time period, so much so that Coca-Cola even made an ad about them.

Short Snorter Coca-Cola ad
Click image to enlarge.

Signatures from friends embarking on their journey together transformed a plain old dollar into a something that many servicemen and women would never leave home without. The short snorter provided the opportunity to make new friends in unfamiliar territory and even gave a chance at a free drink. It allowed for the solider to remember a night of good times or honor friends who didn’t return home. That is why the short snorter will always be a beacon of friendship and a memorial for those that gave their lives for our freedoms. From all of us at PMG, we thank our veterans.


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