The South Carolina Department of Archives and History is cash-strapped, like the rest of state government. But it nevertheless has managed to increase its costly storage capacity.
How? By selling Confederate currency.
What better time than the Civil War's sesquicentennial year to make those Confederate bills pay off even more.
The department is planning to auction off more Confederate money in May. Profits are used for archival conservation.
The bills have been in the possession of the state since Wade Hampton, who had risen to the rank of major general as a Confederate cavalry commander, was governor (1876-1879). It was Gov. Hampton who saw to it that Confederate bills, which had been rendered worthless following the war, would be redeemed by the Bank of South Carolina for half their face value.
Eric Emerson, director of Archives and History for the state, said citizens who still had the bills were allowed to turn them in. They were marked as canceled, bound in paper with a wax seal and set aside to be destroyed.
But they weren't destroyed, and now they hold value to collectors. The sales can draw anywhere from two or three dollars to tens of thousands, depending on how rare the bills are, how well preserved and whether they are sold individually or in lots.
Archives and History bills have been offered at auction three times, and the results have been good. Mr. Emerson says they have enabled the archives to add shelving, which is needed to accommodate its growing collection of documents.
He hopes that the Legislature will make a slight adjustment that will allow them to bring in even more. The department has asked for permission to sell the items, which now must be handled only at auction.
So 150 years after the Civil War began, the state's leaders will be considering a way to give Confederate money value -- without seceding.