In the 1860s, the problem was hoarding – a side effect of the Civil War – so traders, businesses, and local governments tried to print their own money, called shinplasters. Congress attempted to eradicate this practice with an 1862 law banning this private currency, but shinplasters flooded towns from New York to Richmond, Virginia.
“We think the sovereign or the state has a monopoly on value investing, but American history has shown time and time again that this is not the case,” said Joshua Greenberg, historian and editor. from Commonplace, a journal of the beginnings of American life.. “Anytime there’s a downturn or a shortage, maybe you’ve just lived in a pretty rural place, the shinplasters have filled that void.
It can be argued that isolated versions of shinplasters have reappeared in recent years, he said. In Western Massachusetts, you can exchange Federal Notes for BerkShares. Northern Michigan has Bay Bucks. In central Florida, Disney dollars can still get you a soda or fries.
People save pennies
Coins will always have advocates among curators and collectors like the 26,000 members of the American Numismatic Association. The group’s education director, Rod Gillis, hopes they never stop circulating. “I would really hate if we were to become a cashless society,” he said. “I would hate if we lost our historical perspective.”
He called coins representations of our history and culture at one point in time. Before the penny introduced Lincoln, he was showing Lady Liberty in a Native American headdress. President Franklin D. Roosevelt landed on the spot thanks to his efforts to stop polio during the “March of Dimes” of the 1940s.
“Creations are not the result of chance,” he says. “You can learn so much about our culture just by learning what appears on our coins.”
And coins have outlived other inventions – paper notes, stock markets, E-ZPass – outlasting many of the monarchies, republics, and empires they were meant to hold together. Their value as artifacts is “wonderful,” said Dr Fleur Kemmers, archaeologist at Goethe University in Frankfurt. She called the ancient coins “historical documents,” passed down by people across centuries and continents as they haggle, accumulate and find their way into everyday life. She said that in their design, material composition, and discovered locations, coins can reveal clues about culture, politics, religion, industry, commerce and domestic life.