Dollar not what it once was

October 13, 2013

NEW YORK (Oct 13)  With the government poised to print an endless number of dollars, some history is in order, seldom do we get surprised in a bank. This past week was different. They handed me what looked like “funny money”.

It was the newly printed $100 bill. It instantly reminded me of our first skiing trip to the “Great White North”, and colored bills were currency in Canada. At that time, the “Loonie” was worth about 70 cents. However, a U.S. dollar bill could be bargained down to 50 or 60 cents Canadian in a restaurant, allowing more purchasing power.

Obviously, the Canadians wanted those $1 bills. A couple years later, the reason became clear. Each U.S. “Silver Certificate” was exchangeable for silver dimes, quarters, halves, and silver dollars at the U.S. Treasury. The underground currency market in Canada was alive.

Here in the states we were blissfully unaware. In geographic areas where mining was a significant factor in the economy, metals were more desirable than paper bills.

A few years earlier in Alaska, I discovered that their banks sent paper bills back to the Federal Reserve in San Francisco, and kept the silver dollars. It was interesting, but did not fully register.

In the late 1960’s the U.S. government began removing silver coins from circulation. Furthermore, the deadline when an individual could turn in the $1 “Silver Certificate” and receive silver in return had been set.

Circa early 1970’s, on a train to Chicago, a very classy lady boarded in Warsaw, Ind. We struck up a conversation, and she related that her trip was to the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank. She was going to exchange her $1 Silver Certificates for 100-ounce bars of silver.

Another passenger related that he had gone to the local bank and taken rolls of coins. After removing the silver, he took the other coins back, and repeated the process. Before silver coins had finally disappeared from circulation, he had a cubic foot of silver coins.

In the early 1970’s, the silver dollar was worth $1.29. What is the silver dollar the train people had worth today? Over $16.

Gasoline was 20 to 25 cents a gallon then, or about four to five gallons per dollar. Today a dollar gets us to the next pump.

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