15 Historical & Interesting Bank Checks

by JS 

The humble bank check day’s are numbered. No one can deny the convenience, ease of use and speed benefits of the modern plastic / electronic fund movement systems.

But when you scan through this collection of checks, you made find yourself, like me, feeling a sense of loss.

Some of these checks are fantastic historical documents: not only on a global scale, like the check from the sale of Alaska to America, but also on a personal level, like the computer programmer who received a check for $10.24 from his hero for spotting errors in the master’s book and checks written by John Lennon of the Beatles to pay his utility bill. Even Albert Einstein’s payment for an anti-racist newspaper.

#1 Check for the Purchase of Alaska


This was the check for $7.2 million that bought Alaska from the Russians in 1867.

The back of the Treasury warrant for the purchase of Alaska, was signed by Russia’s minister to the United States, Edouard de Stoeckl in August 1868. By endorsing it, he allowed for the transfer of $7.2 million dollars from the U.S. Treasury to Russia and the transfer of Alaska to the United States.

#2 Merchant’s & Farmer’s Bank


In 1946, the only way to get cash was to go into a bank and write a check to yourself or to “Cash” and present it to the cashier. Back then the “Merchant’s & Farmer’s Bank” was probably for actual merchants and farmers.

# 3 A Reward Check from Sir Donald Knuth


I received this cheque from Sir Donald for sending in 4 corrections in his seminal work, “The Art of Computer Programming”.
4 corrections, thus a cheque of 4 hexadecimal dollars.

#4 Steven Page of Barenaked Ladies – 2 Zillion Dollars


An autograph from Barenaked Ladies member Steven Page

Steven Page signed my check – bless ‘im. He also thought it was “cool” that these are the real checks we’re using.

#5 Shoemoney’s AdSense Check


This is perhaps the most famous check ever among people who are trying to make money online. It shows a one month payment for $132,994.97 from Google for ads shown on Jeremy’s ring tones website.

Jeremy used the popularity of this picture to build a very successful blog…which makes him even more money.

#6 Amazing Check from 1869


Even the handwriting is stylish on this $50 bank check from 1869

#7 Beautiful Korean Cheque


Personal checks are beautiful and better historical documents but they are much less secure than electronic funds transfers. Countries like Korea has adopted elaborate watermarks in their checks to try and combat fraud.

#8 John Lennon Pays the Bills


John Lennon pays his electrical bill. 101 pounds was a huge amount for electricity in 1970…maybe his account was overdue by a few months? :)

#9 Checks Were More Casual in 1916


Change banks? No problem, while you wait for new checks, just scribble out the old bank name and write in your new one!

Various cancelled checks from the Crawford W. Cameron collection. Notice how he marked out the “National Bank of Claremore” and wrote in his bank. I would like to see someone try this now!

#10 A Check from the Now Defunct Midland Bank


A Midland Bank Ltd. cheque from the 1970s. Midland Bank, at one point the biggest bank in the world early in the 20th century, suffered severe losses during the 1980s Third World Debt Crisis. Midland was taken over by The Hongkong & Shangahi Banking Corp. in 1992. But then HSBC moved its head office from Hong Kong to Great Britain and became a British bank itself.

#11 National City Bank Check from 1874 for $512,050.00


This check is interesting because of the large amount but also it has a postage stamp on it, I wonder if it was sent through the mail without an envelope…think anyone would try that these days?

btw… if you received this check in 1874 and just left it in a standard saving account, it would be worth about $400 million today.

#12 Mini Checks to Replace Coins


This is actually real money, or at least it was briefly. in the mid-70s Italy ran out of coins and banks were basically allowed to issue their own currency called “mini-assegni”. even the smallest of local banks and credit unions issued these checks as money, and it was impossible to know what currency was supposed to look like.

#13 Blogger Celebrates His Last Mortgage Payment


Blogger Wayne celebrates his last mortgage payment by posting the final payment to the bank on his blog. An achievement definitely worth celebrating.

#14 Checks Can Make Police Work Easy


This check, written by Major League Baseball player David Segui, was used to pay for steroids. In fact many of the players named in the recently released Mitchell Report on steroid use in MLB, used checks to pay for the illegal drugs. See the other checks.

#15 Albert Einstein IF Stone’s Weekly Payment


Albert Einstein pays $5.00 for a subscription to the IF Stone’s Weekly newspaper.


It will be sad when these type of documents are gone for good. There is something so tactile and lovely about seeing the combination of money and personal handwriting preserved on a paper document.

Btw, checks are not dead yet, in fact they are going strong in many cool and designer styles. SMD checks section has a fantastic selection if you’d like to save money (by not paying the over priced rates at your bank) and order checks online.

Suddenly we realize that somehow viewing your PayPal account page, or your credit card statement, is sadly lacking in archeological enjoyment.

Image Credits: #1 Melquiade, #2 takeabreak, #3 G0SUB, #4 Jane, #5 shoemoney, #6 Gerry Szymanski, #7 superlocal, #8 Beatles Rarities, #9 idswart, #10 canadian pacific, #11 Atlantic Cable, #12 okrahoma, #13 sparkleberrysprings, #14 Lion in Oil, #15 Steve Rhodes.

[note: if you are the owner of an image used in this page and you'd like it removed, please contact us and we'll be happy to comply.]

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19 Responses to “15 Historical & Interesting Bank Checks”

  1. DebtKid on January 22nd, 2008 2:51 pm

    That Einstein check is cool. Bet you it’s worth way more than $5 now!

  2. SingleGuyMoney on January 25th, 2008 7:54 pm

    That was really cool seeing all those old checks. Great post!

  3. Carnival of Personal Finance #137 - The Passion Edition » The Dividend Guy Blog on January 27th, 2008 11:23 pm

    [...] is a cool post, one a very creative topic for that mattter! JS from Smart Money Daily presents 15 Historical & Interesting Cancelled Checks, and says, “The humble bank check’s days are numbered. No one can deny the convenience [...]

  4. The Honest Dollar | Carnival of Personal Finance #137 at The Dividend Guy on January 28th, 2008 8:49 pm

    [...] “15 Interesting Bank Checks” at Smart Money Daily. They’re in fact both historical and interesting. [...]

  5. Wilson on January 29th, 2008 12:31 pm

    Interesting checks, but check your math on the Alaskan one. $7.2 Million won’t buy Rhode Island at $50/acre is a lot closer to 1.7¢ per acre. A real steal!

  6. JS on January 29th, 2008 12:41 pm

    Thanks Wilson…I confess that I took it directly from the site where I found the image, now that I think about it, it does seem way off. [have removed the line from the image caption].

  7. Cat on January 30th, 2008 4:45 am

    What a reallly interesting and great post :) :)

  8. Wayne on February 7th, 2008 12:08 am

    very interesting. I wouldn’t mind the cheque from Google, What would I do with that much money?? lol

  9. Personal Checks Unlimited on April 10th, 2008 4:42 pm

    Yeah, I’d love to see one of my Adsense checks look like that! :)

    Really great post. I agree the bank check’s time is closing fast, but with online ID theft becoming an arguably even bigger problem we may be trading one insecure form for another. Unless that is, the masses become more educated…


  10. Bernard on February 23rd, 2009 8:20 pm

    On canceled checks.Is there some sort of guide to tell you what the canceled checks are worth?

  11. Liz on March 28th, 2009 6:41 pm

    That John Lennon check was the most interesting to me, mainly because it’s a check from the Maclen company, which I though Lennon and McCartney had lost their rights to in 1969, a year before this check was written.

    Turns out Maclen was involved in the purchase of the HUGE estate that John bought in 1969, called Tittenhurst. He built a studio in it, which probably explains the high electric bill.

  12. Miss Cellania on March 29th, 2009 4:54 am

    Why is #2 interesting? I still do that!

  13. mental_floss Blog » The Weekend Links on June 22nd, 2009 8:17 am

    [...] …) * Our own Jason English supplied a fascinating link this week – 15 historical and intriguing bank checks. Checks not taking your money or giving it to you have never been so [...]

  14. mrksmith on February 20th, 2010 2:54 pm

    i have an account book that belonged to a dead arnt,there is twoshilings andsixpence in it,it was put in on22sep1933,and the bank is midland bank ltd,i have the death certifacat,her birth and marrige pappers,ive been ifing and ring,wheather to send it to hsbc,when i made enquirees in 2002 they sent me a check for 0.06pence,how does towshilling and sixpence,add to 6p,and the intrest is every sixmonthes,ive been on line to see if the account is still there,and it is.

  15. Roisin on March 17th, 2015 4:43 pm

    Hi, do you know what dimensions these cheques would be?
    Did their size change? For example, the 1970′s – what size are we talking about? My current cheque measures 3×7 inches

  16. EAC on June 12th, 2015 7:05 am

    The 100000 Won Korean check is not a personalized check, instead it is an anonymous bank Cashier’s Check that any bearer can use.

    The John Lennon check was dated 4 July 1940 (NOT 1970), the Beatles’ John Lennon officially was born 9 October 1940. Though strangely it had the post World War II MICR characters. A strange way to write the number “4″? There is no memo on the check what the payment is for. Either the check was given with an included invoice, or both Southern Electricity and John Lennon both know on what the check is for. It is even possible the check is a fake.

    A check is a written order. Back then, any piece of paper usually will do fine, even if it was a check from another bank.

    The stamp on the National City Bank check seems to be a stamp duty instead of a postage stamp. A stamp duty is usually required for a check to be a legal document recognised by the State.

    The Italian checks actually are just like the Korean check above, both acted as replacement currencies. The Korean for the lack of denomination above 10000 Won, the Italian for the lack of printed currencies.

  17. Heather on October 16th, 2015 3:54 am

    Seven years later and still a lovely post. Even today I still enjoy the opportunities to write personal checks. Thank you : )

  18. How to Write a Check: The Dummies Guide to 1st Century Technology - ABODO on March 17th, 2016 8:23 am

    [...] Credits: Reddit, The Funny Beaver, Smart Money Daily, Wikipedia, ONU, I Am Bored, Techeblog, [...]

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