Chapter XII - Just Money

  • 1. What is money?
  • 2. United States money.
  • 3. Metal money.
  • 4. Paper money.
  • 5. Bank notes.
  • 6. "Greenbacks."
  • 7. Treasury certificates.
  • 8. Worn-out notes.

As has been before stated, money in its broadest meaning is a medium of exchange.

Anything that can pay a debt or purchase property, in any part of a country, is the money of that country.

Every civilized country has its own minted or printed money.

The usual mediums of circulation are gold, silver, nickel and copper, the latter alloyed more or less in the United States with nickel.

Government and bank bills, while having all the purchasing power of gold, are simply promises to pay in gold, or other coin of "redemption", the amounts they represent.

The money of one country cannot legally be made to pay a debt in another country, unless both parties to the payment agree to it.

When gold is exchanged to settle the balances of trade between two countries, it is not reckoned, if coined, at its face value, but at its bullion value.

The word "pecunia" meant in ancient Greece and Rome a flock or herd.

In those days live stock were used as a medium of exchange, or money.

We keep the word and often use it as in "pecuniary" affairs, and when we call a moneyless man, "impecunious."


The United States Government reserves to itself the right under the constitution, to coin and issue the money to be used by its own people.

Formerly we had two standards of value, gold and silver, or bimetalism.

If gold and silver were produced in relatively equal quantities, the world would go on trading with money of both kinds, but the proportions are not the same.

Among the Aztecs and Peruvians silver ranked with gold as two to one, that is, two pounds of silver would purchase as much as one pound of gold.

But when great silver mines were discovered and new methods were discovered for extracting the metal, it became more and more abundant, till it depreciated far below the former value it had in its relation to gold.

Most of the commercial nations decided to have but one standard of value, and that gold, long before the United States fell into line.

Our money measure is known as the decimal, or metric. It would be convenient, if we could follow the example of nearly all the other commercial nations, and use the metric system for all our weights and measures.


In the United States Treasury at Washington, there are many million dollars in silver coins and bullion.

The gold standard has not driven silver out of circulation, for it is still found convenient to use it in settling immediately our smaller business transactions.

When the silver dollar was first coined, and indeed up to the present date, the intention was that it should contain about a dollar's worth of silver, or 374 1/4 Troy grains of the pure metal. This amount of silver was supposed to represent permanently 24 3/4 grains of pure gold, and it did so represent its value at one time, and would have continued to do so, had the relative output of both metals been the same.

Our chief mint is in Philadelphia, where is coined all the copper, nickel, silver, and gold money in use.

To imitate these metals, even where the full value is given, constitutes the criminal offence called "counterfeiting."

In former times, some of our older readers will remember them, the Government meant to have the metal in each coin of about its unstamped value in the market.

In those days the cent was as large as our present silver half dollar, and the copper two-cent piece was a monster in the way of coinage.

Now our copper and nickel coins are small and can be carried without testing strength of pockets. They are regarded as money "tokens."

Silver coins that are punched can be refused in the settlement of a debt.

Punched gold coins should always be refused, for they are never of their face value.

Silver coins may be used in the settlement of bills up to $5.00.

Gold coins are, of course, legal tender up to any amount.

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