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Money Museum exhibit launched

By Staff | Jan 5, 2009

The Shell Factory has launched a new exhibit within its shops, sure to be a favorite with coin enthusiasts.
The Money Museum is a free exhibit that features coins, notes and “oddities in mediums” from different eras and from around the world.
There is Greek coins from 356 to 323 B.C., bronze coins from the Roman Empire circa 253 A.D., notes from each of the first 13 colonies, original Confederate bills, specially minted World War II notes and more.
“The exhibit is incredible,” said Kathy VanderJaqt, retail manager. “The history of it is fascinating.”
One of her favorite parts of the exhibit is a display featuring a Mongolian bridal vest, a vest sewn full of coins.
“Brides wore these in Mongolia and Afghanistan as a dowry,” she said.
She also noted a detailed display of the famous El Cazador sunken treasure. Also called “The Hunter,” the ship is famous in the coin world, noted as “the shipwreck that changed the world.”
“If you read the history here, you can see where the terms ‘dollar sign’ and ‘two bits’ come from. It was said to be America’s first currency, the basis of our currency today.”
The Spanish brig of war-loaded treasure included pieces of minted silver headed for the New World.
The recovered Spanish silver from El Cazador was one of the largest quantities of coins recovered from the ocean floor. The Spanish “8 Reales” silver coin has a time-honored place in coin history, recognized as the first U.S. dollar used for trade and commerce in the early days of the country.
The ribbon-wrapped columns sculpted on the coin’s reverse inspired the American dollar sign, experts say. Fractured “bits” of the eight gave rise to the wild west term “two-bits” for a quarter of a dollar.
The Money Museum also has cloth tender, including money sewn by hand in the days of Betsy Ross.
Another large area of display is a World War II era part of the exhibit. It contains monies and other memorabilia. Vanderjaqt herself donated a postcard from her father sent during the war.
A little known fact — the state of Florida had its own money at one time. There is a display of Tallahassee Railroad Company bills from the 1800s, including a $1 bill from the Bank of West Florida.
In other areas, the exhibit features Mayanmar rupees, yen from China, Military Payment Certificates from the the Vietnam War and even “Giant Spear Money” from Africa, used before traditional monies for currency and trade.
“We’re going to expand the exhibit in the future,” said VanderJaqt. “Everything is for sale in the exhibit except for some of the donated memorabilia.”
Guests are already commenting on the wide array of eras and their tender at the exhibit.
“Of all our new attractions, The Money Museum has been the most surprising to me,” said the Shell Factory’s Pamela J. Cronin. “The historical aspects of the coins, notes and bonds is extremely interesting and we are astonished at the level of interest from the public.”
The Shell Factory & Nature Park is located at 2787 N. Tamiami Trail. For information, call 995-2141.