Monday, January 24, 2011

Check, please

There are some ways you can tell someone's age - and one of those ways is their particular method of payment.

And most of the time, if said person is over the age of about 70, that method of payment will be by check (or for my Canadian friends reading, "cheque").  It's pretty much cut-and-dry, too; in my experience, you'll very rarely see a senior using a credit card.

If you think about it, this totally makes sense.  Our parents/grandparents didn't grow up with credit cards - they really only entered our collective culture in the early-mid Seventies.  Growing up, my dad only used a credit card at Amoco (Standard Oil), and of course it was paid off at the end of the month!  He also had some store cards, like J.C. Penney, to use for our school clothes shopping, and again - it was paid off the next month.  The notion of taking a loan out for everyday purchases was preposterous!

I used to love watching my dad pay the bills (that made one of us, I'm sure).  He'd sit at his desk in my parents' room and get out the envelopes, stamps and checkbook and very methodically write out the checks.  My dad was excellent with money, which is a good thing considering that we had very little of it.  The fact that my dad was pulling in about $10K when I was growing up and we had no debt would be considered MIRACULOUS by today's standards (that $10K for a family of four would be like living on only $23K today).

I got my own checking account when I got to college.  I was pretty good with balancing my checkbook but I wrote out checks for the tiniest amounts (I never had cash on hand; I still don't like using it).  I'm sure I drove people NUTS in checkout lines, but maybe not considering that back in the Eighties most people were still using checks.

Speaking of going crazy - be honest!  When you see someone writing a check at the grocery store, don't you get a little impatient?  It's the modern-day equivalent of the little old lady paying in pennies!

I was talking to our bank representative a few weeks back and he told me that the banks are really pushing to make checks a thing of the past, or at least start charging to use them (again).  This only makes sense - as anyone who's seen "Catch me if you Can" knows, check fraud is far too easy, especially in this day and age.

The upside to check obsolescence?  It's heaven for us ephemeraologists!  Old cancelled checks are popping up on my favorite paper sites like Old Stuff Only and Silver Crow Creations and can be had for a SONG!

And of course, I love using old checks in my artwork!  They're so colorful and usually include handwriting, another bonus.  There's just something wonderful about them!


  1. Checks are great (and popular) collectibles. I've seen checks written by Marilyn Monroe (to a doctor); and by Desi Arnez (for lawn care). Some can fetch quite a sum of money! I have a few xerox's of checks paid to me for early holograms (I had to cash them, needed the money back then, or I would have kept the originals). You're the real deal, Mel! :-)

  2. I'm so glad you spelt it out properly(cheque)for those of us who care (LOL). I opened an old book recently and in the back were a dozen cancelled cheques - that does not happen to often! Thanks for the inspiration (and the story).

  3. We all save everything of course to use in our collages, but I had never thought about using those old cheques...may have to go raid my moms stash!

  4. Thanks so much for your comments! Frank, I love that people pay good money for old celebrity checks - do you think anyone will know what a "check" is in 50 years? Jewels, I envy your find! How cool! :D Pam, I'm so glad you were inspired! I'd love to see what you create with them! :D