Posts Tagged ‘money’
In 1858, the United States was an industrializing nation with a banking system stuck in frontier times… Heated battles over ‘the money question’ came to dominate the country’s politics, but no matter how unsatisfied the people, any solution that tended toward centralization was, due to the prevailing prejudice, off the table.
America was a monetary Babel with thousands of currencies; each state regulated its own banks and they collectively provided the country’s money. Officially, America was on a hard-money basis, but the amount of gold in circulation was insignificant…
And therein hangs a terrific tale, “Printing Money,” an excerpt from America’s Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve in the always worthy Delancey Street; read it here.
* Bob Dylan
As we bite our coins, we might recall that it was on this date in 1982 that money market deposit accounts were first offered by banks and S&Ls across the U.S. Pioneered in the early 70s by brokerage houses, the accounts were a way around the Regulation Q prohibition on interest payments n demand accounts.
Back in the 1890s, there was a conscious effort to turn American money into pocket-sized works of art. It resulted in the creation of what is still regarded as the most beautiful set of bank notes ever issued in the United States: the Educational Series of silver certificates…
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP)—the government agency that controls what designs appear on the nation’s paper currency—was open to the idea of a money makeover. With the United States innovating and industrializing, it seemed an apt time for the nation’s progress to be reflected on the art of its bank notes. And the standard dead-president design was getting a bit tired: a New York Times article from March 3, 1896 acknowledged that “there has been for a long time a desire to make a change in the inartistic and stiff paper currency of the years that have gone.”
In an effort to bring more artistic merit to the silver certificate, the BEP approached Edwin Blashfield, Will H. Low, and Walter Shirlaw, three artists known for their elegant allegorical paintings. As muralists, Blashfield and Low were accustomed to working at a much larger scale than the 3.125-by-7.4218-inch dimensions of a silver certificate. But the painters’ flair for eye-pleasing composition and their ability to translate principles of national character into gorgeous tableaus of women in flowing robes was paramount. They were encouraged to submit large paintings, which a team of skilled engravers could then translate to currency-compatible format. According to the aforementioned Times article, 15 to 20 engravers worked on each note, each one assigned to a particular section of the design.
The resulting three artworks formed the basis for the $1, $2, and $5 silver certificates that came to be known as the 1896 Educational Series…
Flip through them at “Object of Intrigue: the Most Beautiful Banknote in U.S. History.”
* Andy Warhol
As we consider the corporate logos on our credit cards, we might recall that it was since this date in 1908 that the motto “In God We Trust” has been stamped onto all gold coins and silver dollar coins, half-dollar coins, and quarter-dollar coins struck by the U.S. Mint.
Trinidad and Tobago, the tiny twin-island nation off the coast of Venezuela, has struck gold. Its newly re-released $50 note (TT) earned top billing in this year’s competition convened by the International Bank Note Society (IBNS).
Designed in partnership with the British banknote manufacturer De La Rue to commemorate the 50th (golden) anniversary of the country’s Central Bank, the $50 note shows familiar takes on its national symbols like its coat of arms, a red hibiscus flower, and a red capped cardinal bird, its wings fanned out like a palm tree. The back of the note depicts a smiling carnival dancer, collaged in front of the 22-story Central Bank and Ministry of Finance twin towers, which are the tallest buildings in the entire country…
Read the whole story and see the runners-up at “The world’s best banknotes of the year.”
* Irving Berlin, “I Got the Sun in the Morning”
As we reach for our wallets, we might recall that it was on this date in 2012 that Facebook went public. The IPO was the biggest in technology and one of the biggest in Internet history, with a peak market capitalization of over $104 billion. Some pundits called it a “cultural milestone”; in any case, a great deal of money was “printed.”
People sometimes say “If I had all the money in the world …” in order to discuss what they would do if they had no financial constraints. I’m curious, though, what would happen if one person had all of the world’s money?
– Daniel Pino
So you’ve somehow found a way to gather all the world’s money. We won’t worry about how you did it—let’s just assume you invented some kind of money-summoning magic spell.
Physical currency—coins and bills—represents just a small percentage of the world’s wealth. In theory, you could edit all the property records on Earth to say that you own all the land and edit all the banking records to say you own all the money. But everyone else would disagree with those records, and they would edit them back or ignore them. Money is an idea, and you can’t make the entire world respect your idea.
Getting all the world’s cash, on the other hand, is much more straightforward. There’s a certain amount of cash in the world—it’s about $4 trillion—and you want it all…
Find out what you’d have to do with all that scratch on Randall Monroe’s What If? at “All the Money.”
* Sociologist William Bruce Cameron (though often attributed to Albert Einstein)
As we go all Scrooge McDuck, we might send imperial birthday greetings to Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus (better known as Vespasian); he was born on this date in 9 CE. Vespasian was crowned Emperor of Rome in 69 after a year of civil strife following the death of Nero; he served for six years and founded the Flavian Dynasty that ruled the Empire for another 20 years. Vespasian was judged (by Suetonius and others) to have been a witty and effective ruler, even as he had to govern through severe financial turmoil. Indeed, to this day urinals are known in Italian as vespasiano, a vestige of Vespasian’s tax on urine (which was valuable in his day for its ammoniac content).
A survey of 43 countries published on October 30th by the Pew Research Centre of Washington, DC, shows that people in emerging markets are within a whisker of expressing the same level of satisfaction with their lot as people in rich countries. The Pew poll asks respondents to measure, on a scale from zero to ten, how good their lives are. (Those who say between seven and ten are counted as happy.) In 2007, 57% of respondents in rich countries put themselves in the top four tiers; in emerging markets the share was 33%; in poor countries only 16%—a classic expression of the standard view that richer people are more likely to be happy. But in 2014, 54% of rich-country respondents counted themselves as happy, whereas in emerging markets the percentage jumped to 51%…
More at “Money and Happiness.”
* Groucho Marx
As we wander past a warm gun, we might recall that it was on this date in 1922 that British archaeologist Howard Carter and his crew discovered a step leading to the tomb of King Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. The subsequent discovery of Tut’s nearly-intact tomb was a world-wide sensation, and ignited renewed public interest in ancient Egypt, for which “King Tut”‘s burial mask, now in Cairo Museum, remains the popular symbol.
(For an amusing– and enlightening– explication of “The Mummy’s Curse,” click here.)
In the wake of World War I, with metals scarce, Germans faced a shortage of pocket change. So cities, corporations, and sometimes individuals printed and used Serienschein (series notes), a form of Notgeld (emergency money). Circulating from 1917 to 1923, in the run up to the great inflation that presaged the rise of National Socialism, the Serienschein were denominated in small amounts– one Pfennig up to one or two Marks– unlike the Notgeld issued during the great inflation, which were issued in giant denominations, up to $100 million Marks…
And even then, required wheelbarrows for transactions…
But the Serienschein were unlike the huge inflation bills in another way, too: while the Weimar bills were as uniformly drab as the circumstances that spawned them, Serienschein— sourced from many different places, as they were– were hugely various and often strikingly designed…
These fascinating notes began to give way to their drab– but astronomically denominated– successors in 1922, when the European victors in WWI, led by England, demanded their reparations payments in full (and in gold). Reeling still from their loss, and unable to rev their economy sufficiently quickly to cover the vig, the Germans were effectively bankrupted… and reduced to printing money. Printing it as fast as they could. The social toll was huge, and had a profound political effect, paving the way for the rise of Hitler and the Nazis.
One notes that once again a group of European countries, this time ironically led by Germany, is looking to a beleaguered neighbor, this time Greece, for repayment at a time when the Greeks do not have the capacity to earn their way to solvency. (One notes, too, that Spain, Portugal, Italy, and others are trailing perilously closely behind Greece…). So as one watches right-wing nationalist movements gather strength in these debtor nations, one can only hope that the folks with hands on the tillers in Germany (and at the EMU) recall George Santayana’s admonition (in The Life of Reason): “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
See more examples of Serienschein here.
*Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
As we think again about stuffing our mattresses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1929 that panicked sellers traded nearly 16 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange (four times the normal volume at the time), and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 12%. Remembered as “Black Tuesday,” this was the conclusive event in the Crash of 1929, and is often cited as the start of the Great Depression.