Why Our Great Grandparents Had It Better Than Us? (Legal Tender 111 Years Ago)

Sep 15, 2022 | Financial Literacy, Monetary Education


The Commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, January 15, 1904, Image 1

Since the late 20th century, the primary currency of the United States has been narrowed down to just two primary mediums of exchange, United States notes and coins and Federal Reserve notes.

However, little do most people know that coins and Federal Reserve notes haven’t been the only options available since the founding of this nation. In comparison to what’s available to use in the form of money today, our great great grandparents had more options than we do today.

Prior to the adoption of the Federal Reserve system as our only regulator of the nations money, we would have seen a monetary system with several different types of monies to use as legal tender.

Here is an excerpt from an article, The Commoner, a newspaper in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1904 where a reader asked the editor a question about money. His question was, “Please give me a list of the money in circulation that is legal tender and that which is not?”

 The editor and proprietor, William J. Bryan, wrote the following which states that in 1904 the citizens had 10 forms of legal tender to use at their disposal.

Article 2

The main point I am making is that before the Federal Reserve system there were more legal tender options available. That meant more options to make and receive payments as well as alternatives in storing purchasing power.

Citizens from that era enjoyed the freedom of using ten variations of money as currency, whereas today over a hundred years later, we have just two. Our ancestors had it much better than we do today, because of the freedom of choice.

The benefits of having options gives the users of currencies alternative means to transact business which makes commerce less stressful because of government regulations which equals a tax. Most importantly it allows the user to diversify which minimizes risk in monetary manipulation strategies by the issuer of the currency.

History has proven over and over again that governments (Roman Empire, Continental Congress, Wiemar Republic) on a fixed income or limited reserves tend to alter their currency to find a way to get more bang for their buck. That altering always leads to the devaluing of the currency by diluting the metal or running the printing press a little longer.

In the 21st Century there are only two forms of legal tender. Those two legal tenders are Lawful Money and Fiat Currency. To no surprise the current monetary policies in place have not lead to the diluting of the metals, but instead borrowing an astronomical amount of fiat currency that will never be re-paid.

That’s why rethinking the dollar in the years ahead will be a wise option, especially since we don’t have anywhere near as many options as our great great grandparents.

Now is the time to learn the difference between lawful money and fiat currency.  

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