The stock market crash of 1929 was announced with a loud and thunderous bang on Thursday, October 24th. In the chaotic days that ensued, the market hemorrhaged double-digit losses. Jittery and uncertain of their financial future, the American public cutback their spending and investments. In turn, production and employment rapidly declined. America was in a recession.
Don’t Call It a Comeback
In the fall of 1930, the economy appeared poised for a comeback. After all, America had successfully overcome three previous economic contractions in 1920, 1923, and 1926; with each downturn lasting an average of fifteen months. America was ready for a rebound.
In November 1930, however, a series of financial crises among commercial banks scuttled all hopes for a quick recovery. Instead, a wave of banking panics occurred, which sent the nation spiraling into the Great Depression.
As people lost trust in banks, they descended upon them in large droves; called “bank runs,” to withdraw their cash deposits. The first of four separate bank runs began in November 1930, when a mob descended upon the Bank of Tennessee in Nashville, Tennessee, forcing it to close its doors on November 7th.
Each bank failure triggered a cascade of subsequent failures. Panic spread from town to town. Within weeks, hundreds of banks had permanently suspended operations.
Once Bitten, Twice Shy
For those that lost money, property, or both during the Great Depression, they also trust in the entire banking system. As a result, people stopped using banks to save/store their money. Instead, they resorted to hiding their money (and other valuables) in and around their homes.
While the Great Depression marked the height of this practice, it’s one that’s still practiced today. I suppose the rock band Great White summed it up best with their popular cover: “Once Bitten, Twice Shy.”
Grandpa’s Hiding Spots
So exactly where did grandpa hide his cash? Here a few hiding places for you to explore:
With their faith in banks gone, people turned to where they slept for their banking needs. While such a hiding spot must have seemed like a good idea at the time, I wonder how much money has been tossed out with grandpa’s mattress. One woman knows the answer to that question all too well.
As a surprise gift to her mother, an Israeli woman generously purchased her mother a new mattress, and threw away the old one. Much to her horror, when she surprised her mother with the new mattress, she learned that her mother had stashed her life savings in the old mattress. The same one that was carted off to the local landfill. And the same one stuffed with $1 million dollars in cash. I have a sneaking suspicion that mom didn’t sleep too well on her new mattress.
Walls of Cash
If the mattress was too full or not an option, people would drop cash and other valuables behind the walls of their home. Don’t believe me? Just ask the Cleveland, Ohio couple who found $23,000 in cash stuffed in a suitcase hidden behind a wall.
Then there’s the case of David “Stringbean” Akeman, the “Hee-Haw” comedian murdered in 1973 by two thieves who’d heard that Akeman didn’t trust banks; he was rumored to have thousands in cash hidden inside his home.
Having shot and killed Akeman and his wife, the burglars never found the Akeman’s money; not the thousands of dollars sewn into hidden pockets inside the couple’s clothing, nor the thousands of dollars concealed behind a loose brick in their chimney, where it remained hidden for decades after their deaths.
“Ma… the mattress and walls done be full of cash. Where should we put the rest?”
If the mattress and walls were full, one had to look no further than their feet for the next hiding spot. If you stumble upon a loose floor board in an older home, there might be a few greenbacks lurking underneath. In one remodeler’s case, that’s exactly what happened.
At this point, we’ve looked for loot in the mattress, behind the walls, and underneath the floor. Now what?
Look up. The least visited place in just about every home is the attic. Furthermore, it’s the last place a burglar is going to look when robbing a home. Here a few examples of fortunes found in attics.
When piano technician Martin Backhouse was summoned to tune a 110-year-old piano at Bishop’s Castle Community College in Shropshire, England, he found more than a few keys out of tune. A lot more.
The college received the piano a year prior from a couple who were downsizing their home. When the technician removed the upright’s keyboard, he discovered 7 cloth bags synched shut by leather drawstrings. Once opened, the bags revealed a hoard of 633 full sovereigns and 280 half sovereigns, dating between 1847 and 1915.
Out of fear of being robbed like ole’ “Stringbean” was, people resorted to hiding money outside of their home. This was most certainly the case for someone who once lived in California.
While walking their dog, a Northern California couple literally stumbled on a cache of gold coins buried beneath an old tree on their Gold Country property. Nearly all of the 1,427 coins buried in tin cans, dating from 1847 to 1894, were in uncirculated, mint condition.
Wells & Outhouses
One hole was used to retrieve water and the other was used to… well… you know, make a deposit.
Often located behind a home, both wells and outhouses were popular hiding spots (intentionally and unintentionally) for personal belongings. If you can get past the idea of digging up and sifting through your ancestral cesspools, you might just be rewarded with coins, bottles, pottery, and other unique artifacts.
Take a Cache Hunting Tour
In closing, tag along with treasure hunter Jerry Eckhart, as he demonstrates common hiding places for money, both inside and outside of old Victorian homes.