from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. (noun) 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. (noun) A small paper note used as money; a printed promise to pay a small sum issued as money without legal security.


  • The [Civil 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, by John Sergeant Wise

  • [Shinplasters] proved hugely popular and were issued again in 1900 and 1923 before the Bank of Canada started retiring them in the 1930s. But shinplasters — nicknamed for their resemblance in size to 18th- and 19th-century bandages — are hardly rare, and usually only worth between $7 and $9 apiece.

    Penny is useless, Senate committee says, The Star, December 14, 2010

  • 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


The name came into early use in the United States for notes issued on private responsibility, in denominations of from three to fifty cents, as substitutes for the small coins withdrawn from circulation during a suspension of specie payments.