We’ve previously showed you 31 Fascinating Facts About the Dollar’s Early History, which highlighted the history of U.S. currency before the 20th century. This was a very interesting period in which we looked at the money used by the first colonists, the extreme bust of the Continental currency, the era of privately-issued bank notes, and Congress’ emergency issuance of the fiat “greenback” during the Civil War.
However, the modern era of the U.S. dollar is just as interesting. We have it starting in 1913, when the Federal Reserve Act was passed by Woodrow Wilson. Not only did it establish a new central bank, but it also gave the Fed the authority to issue the Federal Reserve Note, which is now the dominant form of U.S. currency both domestically and abroad.
For most people, our experiences in everyday life are with using lower numbers like one, two, or ten. We not only comprehend what it means to buy five apples, but we can also visualize exactly what that might look like. In other words, these are numbers that fall within a range that are very intuitive for most humans.
Extrapolate that a little higher and we can still comprehend the numbers, but we start to lose that intuition.
Are there 1,500 or 2,000 people at a music venue? It’s hard to know for sure, but we do at least have a basic comprehension of the sizes of those numbers. Every day, we do math with numbers in the thousands – a paycheck, a credit card bill, or paying rent.
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.