Some collectors cherish antiques for the stories they can tell us. We get joy out of imagining the past life of a simple object, dreaming of all the events it has “witnessed”. Such is the case with this week’s pick of the week, a Boardwalk National Bank of Atlantic City series 1929 five dollar note. While this bill is not particularly rare, only carrying an $80-$120 estimate, one might say the value of this item really comes from where it takes our imagination and its ability to transport our minds to a specific time and place in American history.
In 1929, our beloved New Jersey beach town was quite a different scene from what we are familiar with today. The town would not legalize casino gambling until 1976, and from 1920-1933 the country was subject to the rules of Prohibition. The residents of Atlantic City had a way of getting around these restrictions, and in 1929 a conference was even hosted in the city for organized crime figures across America to attend. The National Crime Syndicate was formed, a confederation of mainly Italian and Jewish organized crime members. . In Atlantic City in the 1920s and 1930s, the mob’s presence was unavoidable. Even today, mobsters and their legacy have had a lasting effect on America’s cultural identity, as popular movies and TV shows make the lifestyle of a Mafioso look intriguing. Living in America in 1929 also meant you were witness to the October 1929 stock market crash, an event that would change the trajectory of many American’s lives. These historic events seem to intersect around one idea: money. Which brings us to our $5 bill – did this $5 note pass through the hands of some unsavory characters? Was it once part of the earnings of a winning poker game played amongst mobsters? Or was it used to purchase alcohol from a bootlegger? Perhaps it was the precious little earnings for a struggling family feeling the initial effects of the Great Depression. Maybe it was the entrance fee to the Museum of Modern Art, just a two and a half hour drive north, having just opened for the first time in November that year. Antique objects are lucky to live many lifetimes. On May 23rd this bill will change hands again and Pook & Pook will be just another stop on its journey.
By: Kaitlyn Julian