Oops… no sorry, not that kind of pawn.
Stamped pawn tickets from the Civil War era are extremely rare; only a handful are known to exist. Why is that? Well, simply put: nobody saved them… there was no reason to. Once a pawn loan was repaid or the decision made to give up the pawned items, there was no longer a reason to keep a pawn ticket. Stamped legal and financial transaction documents, on the other hand, were retained by court houses, financial institutions, or citizens for long-term reference or reconciliation. The pawnbroker had their own ledgers to track their end of the transaction; the pawn ticket was only needed to regain the pawned items.
Also, pawn tickets tended to be small in size, typically smaller than a quarter of a modern-day letter-sized sheet of paper. They were easily disposed of. The word that Mike Mahler uses to describe them in his book “U.S. Revenue Stamped Documents of the Civil War Era” is ephemeral, meaning “lasting for a very short time”. The perfect term.
Prior to last week I had only seen one example in person, shown following, that I acquired from Denny Peoples almost exactly 2 years ago. In my opinion, it is the most aesthetically appealing of all of the pawn tickets reported to date, primarily because of the cancel. The paper color is highly unusual as well.
So last week I was browsing new inventory at Eric Jackson’s website and saw that he had listed a Civil War-era stamped pawn ticket. I did a double-take… and then a triple-take… and promptly purchased it.
For one, I believe it was underpriced… which isn’t something I frequently get to say about Eric’s inventory. 🙂 That’s not a criticism. He caters to a very specialized clientele and his merchandise is priced accordingly; nothing wrong with that in the least.
Candidly, even had it been priced at double or triple the asking price, I probably would have purchased it, as I believe there are a few interesting aspects to this pawn ticket even beyond normal scarcity of the type of document.
See if you can guess what aspect(s) of the document made me purchase it, beyond the fact that pawn tickets from this period are rare. I’ll leave some spoiler space below before I elaborate.
Did you guess yet? No? Keep trying… 😉
Ok… so while I was waiting for the document to arrive, I wanted to track down information to determine whether my suspicion was well founded. I started scouring auction archives for other known examples of Civil War pawn tickets. I also reached out to Eric and Mike Mahler to obtain images of known examples, in order to compile an initial census.
I came up with a total population of 14 stamped pawn tickets including this one. Here is a summary of the other 13 tickets:
Do you see it yet?
All of the 13 previously recorded pawn tickets are from the east coast, specifically New York City and Philadelphia. This could very well be the first (and only?) reported west coast pawn ticket.
The second aspect that I found interesting was that it was for a $300 one-day pawn… an incredibly short-duration loan. All of the other reported pawn tickets have loan periods ranging from 4 months to one year. That was a heck of a lot of money to repay in a single day in 1866.
So… an item that is rare on several different levels that I’m thrilled to add to my collection!