Millions, billions, and trillions…
When we talk about the giant size of Apple, the fortune of Warren Buffett, or the massive amount of global debt accumulated – all of these things sound large, but they are actually extremely different in magnitude.
That’s why visualizing things spatially can give us a better perspective on money and markets.
The U.S. economy is massive on a global scale, and much of the country’s economic capabilities can be traced back to the innovation, knowledge, and productivity that tends to be clustered in urban areas.
The fact is that 80% of Americans live in cities – and the 10 largest metro areas alone combine for a whopping 34% of the country’s total GDP.
From the 10 years of military dictatorship between 1948-1958 to the impeachment of Carlos Andrés Pérez for corruption in 1993, Venezuelan politics have often been both rocky and eventful.
But despite these challenges throughout its history, no one has ever denied Venezuela’s economic potential. After the discovery of oil in the early 20th century, the nation quickly built its economy on the back of black gold – and even today, Venezuela leads the world in proven oil reserves with 300 billion barrels.
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.