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Old hoard, new hoard

When Lehman Brothers failed in 2008 and everybody was scared to death about the American financial system, I expect anyone old enough to remember the 1930s would have been familiar with the sense of panic.

Many people wanted to convert as much of their assets as they could to cash and to gold.

How long people will hold onto their cash and to their gold will likely run to many decades.

When I was growing up there were often comments about certain people who had lost money in bank failures in the 1930s and therefore did not trust the bank. At the time, this was three decades later.

Back then it seemed quaint. After having lived through 2008, it became perfectly understandable.

I had a conversation while cooking hamburgers over the weekend. A fellow worker asked about the value of 1934 $20 bills.

That got my attention.

He apparently knew someone who had a bundle of the notes.

I told him that Series 1934 $20 Federal Reserve Notes would have a premium value if they were crisp uncirculated, though I actually used the terms “new” and “without any creases or wear” in the hopes of being more understandable. Those that have wear on them will likely bring no more than face value.

He did not know how many notes there were exactly, or perhaps did not want to say, but he was surprised that something that old would not be worth more.

That kind of cash hoard is a modern equivalent of a buried trove of Roman coins in Europe.

People felt they needed the cash, perhaps because they didn’t trust the bank, or perhaps because they did not want to ever again be caught short. The notes were put away and stayed put.

In 80 years time, will numismatics be seeing hoards of American gold and silver Eagles with dates of 2008-2013 as elderly children and grandchildren of today’s financially scarred and scared generation decide what to do with the stashes left behind?

The existence of the bundle or bundles of the 1934 $20s today makes it seem likely.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."