Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A piece of paper money issued privately and devalued by inadequate security or by inflation.
  • n. A piece of paper money of small denomination issued by the government, especially one issued by the U.S. government from 1862 to 1878.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Formerly, a jocose term for a bank note greatly depreciated in value; also, for paper money of a denomination less than a dollar.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A small square patch of brown paper, usually saturated with vinegar, tar, tobacco-juice, or the like, applied by poor people to sores on the leg.
  • n. Hence, humorously
  • n. A small paper note used as money; a printed promise to pay a small sum issued as money without legal security.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. paper money of little value issued on insufficient security

Etymologies

From its resemblance to paper used in plasters for sore legs.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From shin + plaster. Probably coined during the American War of Independence (1775–1783). Named for its resemblance to, and suitability for makeshift use as, a bandage for dressing the shin.[2] (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • By reason of this traffic more or less currency of the "shinplaster" kind was in circulation, besides some of the prisoners had money concealed on their persons when captured or had friends on the outside who managed to give them some.

    Two boys in the Civil War and after,

  • The war had by this time produced two comparatively new industries. One was the issuing of "shinplaster" currency, and the other was the manufacture of fruit brandy.

    The end of an era,

  • So before you start hoarding your one-cent pieces, consider the plight of the last piece of widely used currency to be retired, the "shinplaster," a 25-cent note introduced in 1870 to help overcome a temporary shortage in silver coins.

    Thestar.com - Home Page

  • And the problem had nothing to do with any of the myriad of shinplaster grotesqueries we have come to expect from the Department of Homeland Security.

    Thomas Lipscomb: The Trouser Bomber Effect: Watching Government Cure Incompetence with Idiocy

  • Marse Adam pull out a big flat black pocket-book and gived me a shinplaster, and say: 'Jesse, ever time your basket h'ist de beam of de steelyards to 100, you gits a shinplaster.'

    Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves South Carolina Narratives, Part 4

  • Today the postage stamp province has become the shinplaster province, almost dollar bill in her new size.

    The Span of a Canadian Generation

  • It's healthy and it's moral, and it's goin 'to make Omyha look like a shinplaster.

    Desert Dust

  • Here is the hard face of Big Business scowling at its desk; and here the glittering Heroine of the hour in her dress of shimmering sequins, making such tepid creatures as Madeline and Kate look like the small change out of a twenty-five cent shinplaster.

    The Hohenzollerns in America

  • A New York paper states that a Brooklyn lady purchased an article in Fulton-street the other day, when she received the following as change for a one-dollar bill: — Ferry tickets, shinplaster, counterfeit penny, car ticket, milk ticket, butcher's IOU, grocer's IOU, bread ticket, three cent postage-stamp, one cent postage-stamp, and ice-cream ticket.

    A New York Paper

  • Resolved, that the committee on banks enquire into the expediency of authorizing the state to issue one million of dollars small treasury notes, to take the place of shinplaster currency no flooding the country.

    Journal of the House of Delegates of the State of Virginia, for the Session of 1861-62

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