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Poll question puts a reader on edge

Our weekly online poll questions have become a popular addition to the pages of Numismatic News in recent years.

Sometimes we ask questions that everyone has an opinion on and we get numerous responses. Some weeks we ask a question and all I hear are the crickets chirping.

The response came from a poll question regarding replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 with a notable woman.

The response came from a poll question regarding replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 with a notable woman.

This week’s question about putting a woman on the $20 Federal Reserve Note to replace Andrew Jackson generated numerous responses. We have placed many of them on Pages 18 and 20.

After we had finished putting those pages together, a late response popped into my email. I think it appropriate to squeeze it into this issue by putting it in my column.

Now varying degrees of pro and con are expressed on the other pages, but the following is emphatically on the con side.

“Has a full tube of Eagles fallen on your head? Andrew Jackson is the father of REAL MONEY. Without him there would be no Eagles, no Morgans, no Liberties, Saint-Gaudens! How can you help promote such a hypocrisy?

“Not against women but I am for Jackson and if you knew what he means to gold and silver coins you would be too.  Ever hear of a banker named Biddle? Maybe you need to learn a little history.  Although I ordered a book through you maybe I need to rethink ordering anything else. Your action is a disgrace to this country, our heritage, precious metals as coins and my intelligence.”

Obviously the story of Nicholas Biddle and the Second Bank of the United States is still a burning issue in the writer’s mind even after almost 180 years.

The bank was essentially the central bank of the United States located in Philadelphia. President Jackson didn’t like it and worked hard to oppose it. He successfully prevented the renewal of its 20-year charter in 1836 and the bank sank into oblivion. It survived for a while as a state chartered institution, but then failed.

The Bank of the United States $1,000 bill serial number 8892 is one of the most famous reproductions in numismatics.

Issues of central banking aside, Biddle had a personality that rubbed many the wrong way and that is certainly a fatal characteristic in dealing with politicians who hold your future in their hands.

Biddle also tried to restrain the issuance of paper money by what hobbyists call wild cat banks. They are called this because they were located out among the wild cats, that is, away from any convenient place.

Their modus operandi was to get a state banking charter, issue large amounts of paper money and then fold,  leaving people stuck with notes and out of luck.

Biddle’s bank collected these notes before the issuing banks folded and would routinely present them to the issuing banks for payment in “real money,” attempting to put some discipline into the banking system and nip excesses and fraud in the bud.

But Biddle is not remembered for this. He is remembered to this day for picking a fight with Jackson he could not win.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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