From Cowrie To Copper February 15, 2011Posted by lizp4 in Uncategorized.
I’ve posted on here before about my nostalgia for the “old days.” Not necessarily the “good” old days, but definitely OLD.
One of the things I remember was dollar bills that were Silver Certificates. That meant, for you younger readers, that that bill was redeemable for the face amount in actual silver. You could take your bill to the bank, and they would exchange it for a silver dollar that was all silver, all 90% silver, to be exact. They were called “cartwheels.”
Nowadays, you have a Federal Reserve Note, that is not backed by any real treasure, and is redeemable for goods and services, or for more FRN’s, or some coin change which has long since lost all its value, as well as all its silver or gold content.
Pennies are no longer copper, they are zinc, with a thin copper veneer. Dollar coins are made of several utility metals. Gold, as a metal, has increased in value to the point where it is almost unaffordable except by large investors. Silver, while much cheaper, is creeping up in value, as well. Meanwhile, our paper money is still worth nothing in real value, and only has a perceived value as a means of exchange. (Seeing that most of the stuff we can buy these days is cheap Chinese junk — if you can pick it up, the chances are 95% that it is Chinese-made — it figures. Cheesy, fake money buying cheap, tawdry junk from overseas.)
Money is what we say it is. To the Polynesians, it used to be cowrie shells and coconuts. To the Yaps of Yap Island, it was huge stone rings. To the Tlinghit, it was a large copper shield called a “‘tinnah,” or, simply, a “copper.”
So, apparently, today’s U.S. legal tender is whatever it has been designated to be, which is currently zinc, copper, tin, and paper. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is more than a dollar’s worth of technology and materials in a modern U.S. $1.00 bill, but that doesn’t change the fact that whatever we call our money; whatever it looks like, and whatever its value, there is definitely more of it around, but it is worth decidedly LESS.