1 Jiao, 1980

From the NWS at 3 p.m. today, for northeastern Illinois: WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 6 PM THIS EVENING TO 9 PM CST FRIDAY…

“Heavy snow expected. Travel will be very difficult to impossible at times, including during the morning commute on Friday. Total snow accumulations of 8 to 14 inches, with localized higher amounts are expected.”

Well, that ought to be fun. Snow had already started as of 6 p.m. Thursday. Fortunately, all of us can stay home tomorrow.

One more small banknote for now. Small in value, about 1.6 cents, and small physically, 4½ by 2 inches. The 1 jiao of the People’s Republic of China. The PRC. I miss it being called red China, just a little.

1 jiao is 0.1 yuan. So you could say that this is a Chinese dime. The gentlemen depicted on the note are stalwart examples of Gaoshan and Manchu men, presumably looking boldly toward the socialist future. Manchu, I’d heard of. Manchu Dynasty and all that. Gaoshan, on the other hand, I had to look up. Seems that’s a term for Taiwanese aborigines.

Dated 1980, but in fact part of the fourth series of the renminbi (as opposed to FECs), which were issued from 1987 to 1997. So I might have picked this up in China. I know I have a few 1 jiao aluminum coins from our visit. Or the note might have been among the bunch o’ cheapies I got more recently.

25 Centavos, Nicaragua, 1991

This slip of a note, all of 41116 inches by 2116 inches, came with dozens of others that I bought for a few dollars a few years ago. It’s one of a series of small denomination notes issued by Banco Central de Nicaragua in the early 1990s that didn’t have much value for very long.

The country’s base currency is the cordoba, named for the fellow pictured on the note, Francisco Hernández de Córdoba (d. 1526), who is regarded as the founder of Nicaragua, in that he founded Granada and León in that country. He’s not to be confused with another Francisco Hernández de Córdoba (d. 1517), who had the misfortune to lead an expedition in the Yucatan inevitably described as “ill-fated.”

Actually, the Nicaraguan Córdoba had his own ill fate, running afoul of another Spaniard, Pedrarias Davila, founder of Panama City and by most accounts a ruthless bastard even by conquistador standards. Davila had Córdoba put to death by decapitation, just as he did to Balboa (who has a currency named after him, too).

The note was printed by Harrison & Sons Limited, a major British engraver of stamps and banknotes founded in 1750 and lasting until it was bought by competitor De La Rue in 1997. “Harrison & Sons Limited” is visible right there on the bottom of the reverse.

The cap in the triangle, incidentally, is a Liberty Cap, a.k.a. a Phrygian Cap. A symbol of freedom, either a freedman’s or more generally everyone’s. I didn’t know this until I looked it up, but Liberty Caps are commonly used Latin American coats of arms, by Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Paraguay.

Why have we in the United States forgotten about the Phrygian Cap? Why did the silliest of the Tea Party supporters wear tricornes and not Liberty Caps? Most anyone in the early Republic would have known what it meant. Remarkably, Walking Liberty wore a Phrygian Cap on the U.S. half dollar until 1947, though I suspect by then few noticed.

Back to Francisco Hernández de Córdoba. His skull-less bones were discovered in 2000. The Miami Herald reported that year: “Nearly 500 years after he was decapitated by a ruthless boss, and 400 years since his grave was lost in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption, the remains of Hernandez de Cordoba have been discovered. Nicaraguan archaeologists made the find earlier this month in the dusty ruins of a church here on the banks of Lake Managua, 30 miles northwest of the capital…

“When Davila sensed that his chief lieutenant in Panama, Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, was growing in popularity, he had him decapitated. He did the same with Hernandez de Cordoba in 1526. The head of Nicaragua’s founder was stuck on a pole in the town plaza, a reminder to others of the costs of incurring Davila’s wrath, while his body was buried at the foot of the altar in Leon Viejo’s only church.”

10 Sen Note, 1964

Something I thought about the other day, when looking for more detail about my Indonesian 10 sen note, dated 1964: Why aren’t there prizes in cereal boxes any more?

This article at a site called Extra Crispy offers a plausible answer: kids wouldn’t respond to them any more. Entertainment for children has become more sophisticated, you might say. A more cynical take would be that if it isn’t an electronic three-ring circus, kids will be bored.

I wondered that because I read an entry posted by “Man” at a blog called Coined for Money that discusses the 10 sen note. Man asserts (all sic): “Taking a quick break from U.S. notes to talk about my oldest foreign note. I got this from a Cheerios box back in the 1980s when they had a special in box promotion.Cheerios has been doing this for year in the 1950s they had replica confederate money and the most famous is the Sacagewea coins from the 2000s.”

Interesting. I’ve confirmed that General Mills did give away Confederate money reproductions in Cheerios boxes in 1954 — one of those details that shows that some things do change — and Lincoln cents and a few hundred Sacagaweas in 2000.

But I didn’t acquire my note in the 1980s. I don’t remember when I got it, but it was at least as long ago as 1970. It’s one of the first, maybe the first, of the foreign banknotes in my possession. I found it fascinating as a kid. I still find it interesting: a relic, however minor, of Year of Living Dangerously Indonesia. (Book and movie both recommended.)

Could be that Cheerios boxes offered cheap foreign notes as premiums in the late 1960s. That’s plausible, since even then, 10 sen notes were worthless.

To cite Wiki on the 1960s Indonesian rupiah (which even now is technically divided into 100 sen): “The hyperinflation of the early 1960s resulted in the pronouncement of the ‘new rupiah’ supposedly worth 1,000 of the old rupiah.

“The withdrawal of the old money meant the issue of an entirely new set of banknotes, by Presidential decree of 13 December 1965. The decree authorised Bank Indonesia to issue fractional notes for the first time (although the 1 and 2½ rupiah notes were still issued by the government itself), in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 sen showing ‘Volunteers’, dated 1964.

“Due to the fact that the rupiah was only devalued about 10, rather than 1000 times, they were worthless on issue, and many millions of notes never entered circulation.”

Perhaps someone at General Mills’ ad agency got wind of the fact that countless thousands of 10 sen notes could be had for very little real money, and included them in the promotion. And for all I know, the company had so many that it could do it again in the ’80s.

​2½ Guilder Note, 1949

I haven’t found figures on how many 2½ guilder banknotes dated 1949 that De Nederlandsche Bank produced, but it must have been a lot. I know that because, at least as of Sunday, one was for sale on eBay for $1.30, plus 50 cents shipping. A valuable collector’s item, it’s not. Suits me.

The one for sale looks roughly in the same slightly worn condition as the one I have, which is on permanent loan from my mother. It’s a smallish note, 4½ inches by 2⅜ inches. My parents picked it up during their time in Europe in the mid-1950s.

The one to have, at least according to valuations on eBay, is the 1939 Dutch East Indies 25 guilders with Javanese dancers. Someone wants $400 for one of those.

I like the fact that its denomination is ​2½ guilders, not a quantity you see often, though for a long time the United States issued ​2½ dollar gold coins, the Quarter Eagle. Twee en een halvee gulden is also fun to say, though I probably don’t sound Dutch when I do.

If I’ve done my research correctly, a guilder was worth about a U.S. quarter in the mid-50s, valuing this note at 62 cents or so. Not as trifling a sum then as now  — its purchasing power was probably over $5 in current money — but not that much either.

Also of note on the obverse: Uitgegeven krachtens k.b. van 4 Februari 1943 en van 18 Mei 1945. My stab at a translation: issued by virtue of royal decree, February 4, 1943 and May 18, 1945. The Dutch government was in exile in the UK on that first date, including the famously strong-willed Queen Wilhelmina. I know that, anticipating an Allied victory, new Dutch currency was produced starting in 1943. Made in the United States as it happens, as the designs more than hints at.

The 1949 reserve has a Spirographic sort of design.

Queen Juliana appears on the 1949 note, new to the job since her mother abdicated the year before. Juliana was still on some of the coins in circulation when I visited the Netherlands in 1983, though she had abdicated three years earlier in favor of Beatrix, who stayed on as queen until 2014, past the time when guilders ceased to be money. I wonder if the Dutch miss their guilders.

GTT 1990

I’m pretty sure this is on the Texas side of the Texas-Louisiana border on I-20, not far west of Shreveport, in February 1990. As part of my long move to Japan, I moved my meager possessions from Chicago to Dallas that month, stopping along the way in Nashville and central Mississippi.

The site had the Six Flags Over Texas, a common enough display at Texas borders and elsewhere in various forms, and probably some kind of welcome center that’s probably been redeveloped since then. I haven’t been back that way since.

I can’t quite read it, but the road sign seems to say that the exit to Waskom, Texas, is nearby, which would definitely put it on the westbound side of I-20. (I’m fairly certain this earlier Texas border picture was taken along I-10). Not sure what inspired me to take a picture at that place and that time, but I did, and I’m glad of it. Not every moment documented by camera needs to be associated with some kind of peak experience, which are elusive anyway.

February 1st Miscellanea

February, bah. A really cold week lies ahead, with some snow. The only good thing is that January is over.

We got a call one recent day at 7:41 a.m., not the best time, but I guess it couldn’t wait. Our machine recorded it, so I can transcribe it here, with a few details changed.

“Please stand by for an informational message from your community. There may be a short delay before the message begins.


“This is an important message from the Schleswig-Holstein Police Department. Please be on the lookout for a missing juvenile named W—-. Male, white, five feet tall, approximately 90 pounds, brown hair, brown eyes. Last seen wearing a purple Washington Huskies sweatshirt, gray sweatpants, and black, white and red Nike Air Jordan sneakers. Please call the Schleswig-Holstein Police Department or 911 if you have any information. Thank you.”

At 8:44 a.m., there was another call.

“Please stand by for an informational message from your community. There may be a short delay before the message begins.


“This is an important message from the Schleswig-Holstein Police Department. The missing juvenile referenced in the previous message has been located safely. Thank you for your assistance.”

That was a first. Maybe W—- wandered off without telling anyone. It was a relatively warm morning.

Something I happened across in my online wanderings, an incident in New Jersey: “A 16-year-old from Willingboro was arrested by West Windsor Police on Dec. 4 after attempting to steal a car. The theft was thwarted because the car had a stick shift, and the would-be thief only knew how to drive cars with an automatic transmission.”

You’d think the JD — there’s a term to bring back — would have backed away when he saw that the car had a stick, and before police got involved. Then again, JDs aren’t known for their brains.

This falls under the My, How Things Have Change File: Recently I got an email from a grocery store that has my address. The subject line said: ORDER YOUR SUPER BOWL SUSHI PLATTER FOR $29.99.

I’m not holding a Super Bowl party, or going to one, or watching the damn thing at all, but somehow I don’t associate it with sushi. Just me being old. I vaguely remember, about 30 years ago, Mike Royko (maybe) mocking in print the fact that sushi was being sold at some baseball game, probably in California. That seemed strange, I suppose.

Since then, though still associated with Japan, sushi has been fully assimilated into American eating habits. Probably not too many people younger than me would give sushi at a Super Bowl party a second thought.

The Strangest Stamp You’re Likely To See For a While, Maybe Ever

Because I was so busy today, I naturally took time out to watch a couple of episodes of Vintage Space, a series I happened across a few months ago. It’s always interesting. One installment I watched today, “Only Three People Have Died in Space,” was about the ill-fated Soyuz 11 mission.

The three would be the unfortunate Georgy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev, who died in space when their capsule depressurized suddenly just before re-entry. The spacecraft’s automated system then returned the dead crew to Earth.

I remember hearing about that. I was paying close attention to space news by 1971, even though I was 10. As usual with Soviet missions, and especially ones that didn’t go well, the information was a little vague at the time. I’ve read about it since, but it was good to hear host Amy Shira Teitel offer more detail about the accident.

Interesting to realize that for someone her age, just over 30, all of the early programs are purely history, without a memory component. I’m really glad I remember Apollo.

Toward the end of the segment, she discusses a set of stamps issued soon after the mission by Equatorial Guinea — certainly printed elsewhere for that nation — honoring Soyuz 11. That’s where things got strange.

One of the stamps, as seen above, gruesomely depicts the dead crew. “It is one of the strangest depictions of fallen heroes on a stamp that I have ever seen,” Teitel says. I’ll go further: it’s one of the strangest stamps I’ve ever seen.

Ann at 1111

No store-bought birthday cake this year for Ann, at her request. Her mother made a cheesecake.

It was good cheesecake. We didn’t have a numeral 5 candle. You’d think we would, considering my age, but no. So the numeral 1 stood for a decade, the smaller candles for years. Ann was OK with that arrangement.

I thought of, but forgot to suggest, that the numbers be in base 2, which would be 1111. There’s no reason to use base 10 for birthday candles other than the dead hand of decimal tradition, after all.

This Has Never Happened in January

According to Accuweather at least, the highs in my part of the suburbs on January 26 and 27, 2018, were 51 F and 50 F respectively. Maybe so, but on Saturday the 27th from about 11 am to 2 pm, the air felt warmer. On my deck it felt warmer, maybe because of its southern exposure.

It felt so warm I decided to cook some sausages on the grill, which usually spends its winters standing idly in the back yard. That’s probably not good for the long-term condition of the grill, but it’s a nuisance to find a spot for it into the garage. Anyway, just after noon on Saturday the grill was smokin’.

It only looks like a dry grass hazard. Because of recent snow meltage — earlier in the week — the ground was damp, even soggy in spots.

Even better, we sat on the deck and ate the sausages for lunch. An al fresco lunch in northern Illinois in January. I don’t even need one hand to count the number of times I’ve done that. I’m not sure I even need more than one finger.

Of course it didn’t last. By Sunday temps were back below freezing, with a dusting of snow. But brevity made the warmth all the more pleasant.

Circular Quay to Manly, 1992

Australia Day has come and gone again — it was Friday — so what better time to post pictures of early ’90s Sydney Harbour? One of the things I did in January 1992 in Sydney was take the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly, which offered some fine views of the harbor.

Toward the center-left of the image is the 1,000-or-so-foot Sydney Tower, the narrow tower with the observation bulb on top, and one of the places I visited when I first got to town. A fine view.

The Opera House. I saw that during my first-day walkabout, as you’d expect. It was closed, so I didn’t see the inside. But it’s an impressively odd structure from the outside.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge. At one point during my visit I walked across it. The bridge is the same league as the Golden Gate Bridge or Brooklyn Bridge or the Seto Ohashi.

Finally, just a picture of people doing what I was doing, watching the harbor go by.

It was a windy summer day out there on the water.