Sunday, March 6, 2011
The Rise & Fall of American Coinage!
The power and wealth of a country and its trajectory in history can be viewed through the study of the changes that occur to their monetary system and coinage. A particularly interesting parallel can be drawn between the history of the Ancient Romans and the present-day USA. Although separated by several millenia, the USA seems intent on following the identical path that Ancient Rome walked from rise to ruin as mirrored in the gradual debasement of their silver coinage.
Ancient Rome: Silver Content of Denarius coin (about size of USA nickel coin)
269 BCE 6.8 grams
211 BCE 4.5 grams
Emperor Augustus (Early Empire) 27 BCE - AD 14 3.9 grams
Emperor Nero (Early Empire) 54 AD - AD 68 3.4 grams
Mid - Late Empire Mid Third Century 3.0 grams (varied during period)
Emperor Gallienus (Late Empire) 260-268 AD (alone) Copper coin with thin silver wash
USA (Early Republic - Mid-Late Imperial Period)
American Republic Various Presidents 1792 - 1964 90% silver 10, 25, 50 cents, $1.00
Early Empire 1965 - 1969 40% silver halves - all others made from base metals
Mid - Late Empire 1970 - 2011 All circulating coins cupro-nickel base metals
Ancient Rome began to decrease the silver content of its coins as the economy suffered, and Emperors looked for new ways to gain revenue without raising taxes. Where once the denarius was widely accepted in commerce throughout the Western World and Asia, it eventually became worthless and shunned as useful coinage due to the gradual debasement. Although my not-so-subtle political commentary re the USA is subject to discussion, the pattern of the systemic devaluation of the American coinage is not. The USA is clearly following the same destructive path that Ancient Rome followed to its doom.
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