“Short Snorters”? WTH?

Militaria is fun, historical and often a somber aspect of collecting. Medals, guns, flags, canteens, uniforms, swords, passports, papers and maps are typically the most active pathways of accumulation. And then there’s the short snorter. What is a short snorter? Basically, it’s a $1 bill (or a 5 or even a 20) that has been signed by the crew of a ship, airplane, tank unit or group. It is said that the tradition began in the 1920s (some say much earlier), and the term’s origin has something to do with pilots and alcohol. (A “short snort” was an alcoholic drink that was a bit short in alcohol so the barkeep could pocket a little extra profit.)

Historical 1944 Signed Bills By Short Snorter

We recently bought the short snorter pictured from a local antiques dealer for $150. Usually, these mini-autograph books on money bring very little — generally selling in the $5 to $25 range. But signatures from historical ships’ crews, or bills signed by historical figures or people in a famous battle, can bring thousands of dollars. We paid $150 because this dollar bill purportedly yielded the signature of a Medal of Honor winner, and we think that alone will enable us to put an auction estimate of $200 to $250 on it.

dollar bill image
short snorter signed


Our most interesting short snorter was sold to us eight years ago by a St. Petersburg resident, a 6 foot 6 retiree who, as a strapping 21-year-old, was a guard at the Nuremburg trials following WWII. His bill was in poor condition, which hurt its value; but it was signed by most of the Nazis on trial, including Hermann Goering, Alfred Rosenberg, Julius Streicher, Albert Speer and many others. Because of its poor condition, we only paid him $1,000 for it.

We were able to sell it for over $1,400. The bill did not include Rudolph Hess’ signature. (The retiree said he did not approach Hess after he watched his colleagues ask Hess for a signature — and Hess’ response was to tear the bill into pieces.) If it had, it might have fetched $3,000 or more!

signed bill


signed view bill

This is an archival article formerly written and is for informational purposes only. The valuations in this article have likely changed since it was first written.

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