COINS TAUGHT JIM BOVARD."Old coins vaccinated me against trusting politicians long before I grew my first scruffy beard. I began collecting coins when I was eight years old in 1965, the year President Lyndon Johnson began eliminating all the silver in new dimes, quarters, and half dollars. LBJ swore that there would be no profit in 'hoarding' earlier coins 'for the value of their silver content.'
"Wrong, dude: silver coins are now worth roughly fifteen times their face value." METAL MONEY vs. PAPER CURRENCY
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is a must read for anyone just discovering the vast differences in
common coins prior to 1965 and those of today. Also, a stunner
for anyone who has some old silver certificates and actually believes
the government backs them with anything of intrinsic value.
Our own epiphany about common coins came in 1937 when we received a birthday gift of a slightly worn 1837 one cent coin. It was about the size of a quarter-dollar.
" Huh?" we wondered. Why was that? So we went about finding out.
My grandfather was two when A.G. Bell invented the telephone. He was married and father of two children before he finally had one installed. It was one of those "candlestick" types with the receiver hanging from a cradle on the side.
I can't recall ever being allowed to use the telephone when I was a little shaver living with my grandparents. Although I did discover that one could play with the dialing mechanism without causing harm PROVIDED the earpiece wasn't lifted from the cradle.
Most incoming calls seemed to involve trouble. "Oh, dear. Mrs. Smith is in a bad way. They took her to the hospital this morning. It doesn't look good."
"What? The Evans had to call a doctor to look at little Edna? Oh, my Lord, I hope the neighborhood children don't catch whatever it is. At two-dollars a visit who can afford to call the doctor very often?"
Sometimes my grandmother would sit and chat with a friend if she had some spare time, which didn't seem to be very often. I was always relieved to hear her laugh. That didn't happen very often, either. Those were the bleak years of the early 1930s and things were not going very well for our clan.
What would grandmother think about telephone traffic in the 21st century? We think she'd be shocked and angry at the way con artists and peddlers of all descriptions presume the private telephone is their gateway into people's pocketbooks.
"Do not hang up!" barked a harsh male voice after I answered my home phone recently. As I was about to hang up he said "Congratulations! Your home has been selected. . . ." I hung up. I'll never know for what my home was selected.
Twenty minutes prior to that call it was a perky pollster who told me I was a Republic voter whose opinion is vital to the GOP. Would I kindly stay on the line for an important poll? Alas, I could not and apologetically terminated the conversation. It seems wimpy, doesn't it, to handle telephone pests with some level of courtesy but that's a habit I picked up somewhere back in the Dark Ages.
Incidentally, why am I on the GOP call list? For the record, I am not a Democrat nor a Republican. I have been ardently independent since Barry Goldwater lost his run for president. .
But - back to the telephone. My day is filled with calls from females whose automated message has something to do with credit card(s). I never stay on the line long enough to find out what it's about. I could be missing a fantastic deal. (!)
"Crime rates in your neighborhood are up," announces a stern voiced caller. It's a pitch for an expensive home alarm system. His script is carefully written and I really hate to cut him short, but I have my security bases covered.
"We're installing new windows in your area, and...." Sorry. Not in the market for windows.
And the coin dealer in Texas. "Hey, there! What's the weather over in South Carolina?" I tell him how awful it is and add that he needs to take my name off his call list. I'm not buying anything. Never do. But he keeps trying.
As for the cell phone. . .I never have it on except to make a rare call. That instrument is totally for MY convenience and I have no interest in listening to commercial pitches on it.
As for email spam - WELL! The spam catcher snags about 120 of them per day in the email account. Sometimes there's a legitimate email in the bunch and I feel obligated to glance at the list before deleting the daily spam. What a waste of time.Speaking of time. . .where do people find time to incessantly fiddle with iPhones and other portable doodads designed to keep them constantly in touch with others similarly inclined? Their constant busyness prevents them from sitting quietly now and then to just THINK. ~P.G.
If you lived in China some 3,000 years ago you may have heard some ancient tales of a time when people had to exchange goods and services directly for goods and services. There was no money to serve as a medium to make exchanges more convenient.
What a pain barter must have been! A sandal maker in want of baked goods would have to search for a baker who was in need of new sandals.
However, since the introduction of cowrie shell money in China hundreds of years earlier commerce was greatly improved. The footwear maker could trade his products for a bag of cowries and take some of them to the baker when he was ready for a snack. The baker, in turn, could use his cowrie accumulation to buy supplies, pay employees, and so on.
Cowries were money in parts of Asia and Africa for centuries. Had they been as plentiful as leaves on trees or pebbles on beaches they would never have got to first base in the role of hand-to-hand currency. Luckily, they were abundant enough to keep the purchasing power of an individual shell quite low, but rare enough to avoid price inflation. Today a smallish cowrie shell is worth about 10¢ in U.S. currency.
They were beautiful, durable, widely recognized as valuable, and difficult to counterfeit. Craftsmen could see no point in trying to make fake cowries.
Shells were a big deal in the money function in other parts of the world, too. In northeastern America natives painstakingly fashioned cylindrical beads from Quahog and Whelk shells. "Wampum" it was called and strings of wampum were money not only for natives but European settlers, too, when the colonies were young.
Cattle and other animals have served the money function. The peculiar great stones of Yap island are money. Lead musket balls have served the function, and even one-inch cubes of indigo were used in trade in upcountry South Carolina when customary currency was in short supply.
Metal got the starring role as money. Iron had a fling in ancient times. Copper, silver, and gold manufactured into coins by trusted mints won the day. Gold was the rarest, hence the most valuable. Coined money was not only the most popular medium for exchanges, but also was consistent in purity and weight - particularly if the mint was widely known for its honesty. Moreover, silver and gold coin developed a splendid track record for preserving purchasing power over long periods of time.
We don't think of media of exchange having value any more. Three generations ago a shoemaker would exchange his newly made footwear for money whose metal value was equal to the product. He may have accepted actual coins for the transaction, or paper currency directly redeemable in silver or gold coins.
Nearly a century of corruption of the U.S. money system has drastically
changed the scene. On the surface the scenario may seem
similar. The shoe store sells foreign-made footwear to a customer
in exchange for paper currency that reflects debt of the U.S.
government to the banks. Each piece of paper currency clearly
states it's a NOTE (by definition evidence of debt) and this IOU is
signed by the Treasurer of the United States, and the Secretary of the
Treasury. The note is not redeemable at any bank except in
limited amounts of zinc, copper, and nickel coins. Its only value
to the holder is that it can be passed along to someone else for goods
and services, who - in turn - must pass it along to someone else, etc.,
The debt is never satisfied! The ever-depreciating IOU will continue to circulate until it eventually depreciates to zero.
The Federal Reserve System is the mechanism through which the money system established by the U.S. Constitution was destroyed. Congress should dispense with its services. If it doesn't and the dollar is wiped out we can always return to cowrie shells or wampum. Even gold and silver!