Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The tie that bonds, the bond that ties

I found them deep in the bottom of the safe deposit box, put there so long ago they'd been virtually forgotten. Three US Savings Bonds, gifts to me on the occasion of my birth.

The denominations didn't seem huge: 100, 50, and 25 dollars. But, readjusted for the rate of inflation, the gifts were very generous indeed at the time they were given. You'll have to guess the date of issue yourself; as you can see, a little judicious editing has been performed by a friend less technically challenged than I on the above reproduction of one of the bonds.

I'm not sure who the donors were, but I know they had to be family friends or relatives. The stamp on the bond in the photo says "The First National Back of Millburn," so that's a pretty good clue; my mother had first cousins who lived there.

When I took the bonds out of the box to study them, they seemed old--older than they ought to, far far older than I. Something like the Confederate money I remember my grandmother showing me in my youth, or the far more interesting mourning jewelry her mother had worn--chains made from the hair of the deceased, on which lockets containing the loved ones' photos were hung.

These US Savings Bonds were evidence that, as a newborn, I was surrounded by a group of people who didn't even know me yet but who wished me well. And not only did they wish me well, but they were putting their hard-earned money where their mouths were, and planned that some day these bonds would pay me back with interest.

And now that day had come, belatedly. No doubt the givers thought the bonds would have been redeemed quite some time ago, perhaps even to help pay for a college education, when that kind of money could actually get you something more than a textbook or two. But somehow, instead, the bonds had been laid aside long ago and forgotten.

The bonds made me think of the banks of my youth, so different from today's user-friendly ones. Those 50s banks were meant to be intimidating; they were manned (and "manned" was not just a figure of speech; the employees were all males) only until two o'clock in the afternoon or so, the classic "banker's hours." They featured a lot of icy marble, and the tellers hid behind grates, with only a bit of their faces showing. The effect was enhanced by the fact that I was too small to really see up that high; I just presented my savings account book and they gave it the mysterious and official stamp.

Now, of course, the bank I visit to redeem the bonds is a wide-open space, full of light and artwork. The tellers are all women--although actually, to me, they look like young girls--with nary a grate in sight.

I present my bonds, and the teller studies them, her eyes widening, her mouth forming a little "O" and giving out a slight puff of air. She actually calls the others over to look, and soon the lot gather around, murmuring "We've never seen one of these before; look how OLD!!" and gaze up at me in wonder.

I'm a bit hurt. "Hold on about old, that's me you're talking about. They were given to me the day I was born," I say, and they smile and shake their heads. Others are called in, and a consultation ensues. What to do? How to look this up?

A higher-up comes out and determines that, with interest, the bonds are worth $921.92, which respresents a nice windfall, and an unexpected one as well. I can feel those long-ago givers smiling on me, joyful at the birth of that baby girl so long ago. What were their hopes and dreams for her, their fears and secret sorrows? I don't even really know who they were; just that they wished me well--and that, so many years later, I receive their gifts once again.


At 6:46 PM, June 07, 2006, Blogger nyomythus said...

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At 6:51 PM, June 07, 2006, Blogger nyomythus said...

John W. Snyder, Secretaries of the Treasury (Jun. 25, 1946 - Jan. 20, 1953) signed your note. Of the note itself, “The first Series E Bond was sold to President Franklin D. Roosevelt by Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau on May 1, 1941.”

So, I'm pretty sure the note is from the correct decade as your birth.

At 7:08 PM, June 07, 2006, Blogger Proud Neocon said...

This is off topic, but how appropriate of you Neo to be plugging Ann Coulter's latest book.

Thanks for not letting me down.

still a proud neocon.

At 7:43 PM, June 07, 2006, Blogger Joan said...

Just in case anyone else has old bonds lying around, you can easily find out their value today with the Dept. of Public Debt's (what a scary-sounding name!) online savings bond calculator.

At 8:00 PM, June 07, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Quantum machines are useful. Just think, you can invest in big companies when they are still small, by buying their stock, and then your children will inherit.

At 8:41 PM, June 07, 2006, Blogger nyomythus said...

…and soon the lot gather around, murmuring "We've never seen one of these before; look how OLD!!" and gaze up at me in wonder. –dreadfully for you but hilarious for the intuitive (and sensitive) the bystander! :D

The over all notion and probably the intended notion to elicit a most importance is an almost utopian, relative to what some children go through, sense of love that people give to their children, not all cultures rise to the same ethic; not that western culture and certainly not all its individual are perfect in this area. Children that are nurtured and welcomed into families – this is an enormous fortune. Children face life with what life throws at them, and should be free to make what ever decisions they chose as the become adults, and along the way they should be secure in a faith that their parent(s) are not one of those obstacles, but ones who will help them overcome those obstacle. Your post didn’t say this, but it gave me this feeling, and it was good to write it. I really enjoy your blog :)

At 9:11 PM, June 07, 2006, Blogger stumbley said...

Now THIS is why I love reading comments:

"Just in case anyone else has old bonds lying around, you can easily find out their value today with the Dept. of Public Debt's (what a scary-sounding name!) online savings bond calculator."

Thanks, Joan!!

At 11:06 PM, June 07, 2006, Blogger Senescent Wasp said...

Neo, this is such a sweet story. Those old Series E bonds and all the Buy Bonds campaigns of WW II. I think kids got bonds as gifts a lot in these days and obviously, even long after the war. When I was a kid they always looked so impressive but delayed gratification was not one of my strong points.

And, regarding Coulter's latest bile stream see The Anchoress for blogospheric condemnation.That's the problem with performance art, you have to keep topping yourself.

At 11:13 PM, June 07, 2006, Blogger sam said...

I had a similar bond, $25 face value issued in 1949, just a few months after I was born. I finallly cashed it a few years ago to help pay college tuition for one of my children. The bond was purchased at the Church St. Post Office in Manhattan, and I assume it was bought by either my father or my uncle who both worked nearby. When I go into that PO -- recently restored in all its 1930s grandeur, I wonder about who bought that bond in that very same public hall.

At 8:00 AM, June 08, 2006, Blogger westbankmama said...

Slightly off topic, but my husband's grandfather bought Israel bonds, and when we decided to move to Israel permanently, the cash from the bond helped to pay for some of the expenses.

At 5:56 PM, June 09, 2006, Blogger MikeZ said...

That's a great story - and a great angle. I have[or had] a Series E bond or two. The generation-to-generation connection is something I wouldn't have thought of - that's why I like reading your blog.

With families changing so rapidly now, I wonder if we can even do the same thing for the next.

At 5:18 PM, February 28, 2007, Blogger robinannepenrose said...

I have an item (maybe a savings bond?). It is for 1000.00 and says The Confederate States of America (12 months after date) will issue to bearer One Thousand Dollars plus 10 cents per day interest. It was issued May 28, 1861. Does anyone know if it might be worth anything or where I can get more info? Thanks!!

At 10:04 AM, October 01, 2007, Blogger petersbrad said...

I also have an item which may be a savings bond, and it also says the confederate states of america will pay to bearer 1000 dollars with interest at ten cents per day, but is dated May 28th 1811 ,MONTGOMERY. i would be happy for anyone to email me info they may have.thanks


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