On April 16-17, 1947, Gallatin merchants tried a gimmick that brought many people to Gallatin to shop. The gimmick was the 1939 penny. On these two days if you had a penny bearing this date you could trade it for some merchandise at the local store. Some items listed were worth 10 cents and some were more than a dollar.
When people heard the news, penny hoarding occurred. Not only were children searching for pennies, but adults as well. It was estimated the 1939 pennies ran about one or two to the 100 pennies in circulation. One lady, an exception to the rule, found 50 of them.
Banks and business houses had been trading other denominations for pennies at the request of the customers. The Courter Theater gave a show for the school children with the admission price of a 1939 penny. Those students with the penny were allowed to miss school for the movie if they brought their penny to school.
“Penny Day” was a success. It brought customers from nearby towns as well as Gallatin itself. Store owners claimed they saw people they’d never seen before. Customers were present from Hamilton, Maysville, Cameron, Bethany and Gallatin. All the banks from these towns, as well as others, reported a run on pennies. One Gallatin woman received 18 by air mail from her daughter in Chicago.
Most of the stores were jammed with customers throughout the two days. Some even found customers outside their building waiting for the stores to open. Drugstores, which had listed malted milks and ice cream sodas were especially busy. A department store advertising ladies silk hose for a 1939 penny sold its supply within a few hours. Many stores received more than 100 pennies while a few received over 200.
Not only did the penny sales bring the people to Gallatin, but they purchased many other things at the stores and some thought they might have gained a few regular customers.
— researched and presented by Wilbur Bush, Gallatin, MO