Today, we all know the U.S. dollar as an iconic currency that is recognizable to people around the world.
How and why was it conceived, and why do we call it a “dollar” or a “buck”? How did the dollar’s early history help to shape today’s world?
The Money Project is an ongoing collaboration between Visual Capitalist and Texas Precious Metals that seeks to use intuitive visualizations to explore the origins, nature, and use of money.
The value of money is not static. In the short term, it may ebb and flow against other currencies on the market. In the long-term, a currency tends to lose buying power over time through inflation, and as more currency units are created.
Inflation is a result of too much money chasing too few goods – and it is often influenced by government policies, central banks, and other factors. In this short timeline of monetary history in the 20th century, we look at major events, the change in money supply, and the buying power of the U.S. dollar in each decade.
Although gold has a bigger reputation today as a monetary metal, it was often deemed too valuable for everyday transactions throughout history.
For the most part, common people in places like Ancient Rome used silver to buy daily staples like grain or wine. As a result, silver has a strong reputation through monetary history as the “people’s money”.
Even today, silver is still much more widely accessible. With one ounce of gold being 70x more expensive than an ounce of silver, it’s difficult for someone who is just starting to accumulate wealth to own gold.
Since Ancient times, gold has served a very unique function in society.
Gold is extremely rare, impossible to create out of “thin air”, easily identifiable, malleable, and it does not tarnish. By nature of these properties, gold has been highly valued throughout history for every tiny ounce of weight. That’s why it’s been used by people for centuries as a monetary metal, a symbol of wealth, and a store of value.
Only a few days after Trump’s inauguration ceremony, the U.S. National Debt will creep across the important psychological barrier of $20 trillion.
It’s a problem that’s been passed down to him, but it certainly puts the incoming administration in a difficult place. The debt is burdensome by pretty much any metric, and the rate of borrowing has exceeded economic growth pretty much since the late 1970s.
How Trump deals with this escalating constraint will be a deciding factor in whether his administration crashes and burns – or ends up re-positioning America for greatness.
It was an up and down year for commodities, but things ultimately finished in the black.
The biggest winners on the year were base metals and the oil and gas sector.
Here’s how base metals did:
Bitcoin is no stranger to extreme fluctuations.
For each of the last four years, the cryptocurrency has either been the best or the worst performing currency – with nothing to be found in between.
Luckily, for those that follow the digital currency closely, those fluctuations were mostly pointed in an upwards direction for 2016. The currency finished the year at $968.23, which is more than double its value from the beginning of the year.
Have you ever wondered which currencies receive the most trading action? The data for the following chart comes from a survey done every three years by the Bank of International Settlements (BIS).
Note that trading volume adds up to 200%, because each currency trade has a pairing.
Humans will do almost anything for gold.
In fact, they will even suspend themselves 2.5 miles into the Earth – braving extreme temperatures, armed thieves, and constant seismic activity – just to mine a 30-inch gold reef.
Welcome to another day at Mponeng, the world’s deepest gold mine.