Treasury offers a memory lane trip as savings bonds go electronic
Where will Mr. Ed stash his cash now?
As the Treasury Department prepares to pull the plug on the paper version of U.S. savings bonds at the end of the year, it's touting the 76-year history of the populist government investment that helped win World War II and jump-start the bank accounts of millions of youngsters.
Hollywood helped sell many of those bonds, with stars all along the entertainment evolutionary scale making public service pitches -- from Bing Crosby and John Wayne to Lassie and Mr. Ed, the 1960s TV talking horse.
"As we transition our savings bond program online -- a move that will produce significant taxpayer savings -- we wanted to step back and remember how savings bonds came to symbolize the events, people and places that shaped our nation through good times and difficult periods over the past 76 years," U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios said.
Saturday is the last day to purchase paper savings bonds. After that, they'll be available only electronically, saving the government $120 million over the next five years.
But to remind people that the bonds are not going away -- just going digital -- the Treasury Department has created an interactive online timeline with ads and images dating to the program's founding under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 as a low-priced government security.
The first $25 bonds sold for $18.75. During World War II, the bonds helped finance the U.S. military, and were offered in small denominations ranging from 10 cents to $5 that were called war stamps. Through 2010, nearly $595 billion worth of savings bonds have been redeemed in the program's history.
The Treasury site features vintage posters from World War II and videos, including TV ads featuring George Reeves as Superman, and Timmy and his collie from "Lassie" urging Americans to buy savings bonds.
"The first thing you know, you'll have enough for a savings bond, just like Dad buys at the payroll savings at work," Reeves tells a group of smiling children in one of the grainy, black-and-white videos. "And from then on, the sky is the limit. Take it from Superman."
For more of the ads, the National Archives has a video montage (above) featuring pitches from John Wayne, the Lone Ranger, Bugs Bunny and Bullwinkle J. Moose.
-- Jim Puzzanghera in Washington