FRIENDSHIP 7: Flown $2 Bill
Launch Date: February 20, 1962 | Splashdown Date: February 20, 1962
About the Provenance
Purchased from a private space collector. It is authenticated by the period signatures on the bill. The original signed and notarized flight certification document, and it matches by serial number to the official investigation listing of bills flown on Mercury-Atlas 6.
About the Bill
This 1953 Series A $2 bill, serial number A60730193A, is hand signed by Lt. Col. John Glenn, his backup pilot, mission capsule communicator and fellow Mercury Astronaut Scott Carpenter, and Joe Trammel, the launch crew member who placed the bill in the capsule and wrote "Good Luck, John” on it before the flight. The bill is further flight certified on an ornate, printed document, also hand signed by Glenn and Carpenter, and notarized by Helen Covell on May 9th, 1962, and stating that it was flown on the mission. This bill, along with other $1 and $2 bills – totally 32 bills in all – became subject of a congressional investigation after the discovery of their flight. Ground crew members snuck the bills on board by rolling them into tube shapes, and taping them around wiring within the capsule. Congress was concerned that the bills, part of a tradition started with Alan Shepard’s flight, would interfere with flight operations and cause a danger. One senator called their flight a “foolish business.” When Glenn testified in front of the House Space Committee, he claimed at the time to only know of one $1 bill to have flown, wrapped in a wire bundle behind the control panel. But a NASA spokesperson is later quoted as reporting that some 200 bills (mostly $1 bills) were hidden aboard Glenn’s spacecraft by launch crew personnel. Further research at the John Glenn Achives, however, has turned up a memo dated March 9, 1962, written by Charles L. Buckley, Jr., of the NASA Security Office. According to Mr. Buckley's memo, "approximately $52 to $56 or a total of 32 bills of one and two dollar denominations were place aboard the capsule by a McDonnell Aircraft employee..." So the universe of flown bills from this mission are extremely limited to just 32 bills. According to Same Beddingfield, Kennedy Space Center employee number 4, and the engineer responsible for the weight and balance of the Friendship 7 capsule, this was the first flight in US manned spaceflight history to carry a $2 bill, and the majority of bills flown were of the $1 variety on this flight. According to Beddingfield, Shepard carried only a very small number of $1 bills on his flight. Gus Grissom also carried a small number of $1 bills on his flight (along with his famous dimes), but those bills were lost at sea when the spacecraft sank. Several damaged bills were recovered when the capsule was found, and those $1 bills reside at the Kansas Cosmosphere. Based on the serial numbers of the bills flown on Glenn’s flight as published in Russ Still’s Relics of the Space Race, no more than 15 were of the two dollar denomination. Because of the investigation, no other bills were known to have flown on the remaining Mercury flights as “contraband” ground crew items.