Much has been made of the multiplicity of cryptocurrencies: they have different backing; they have different functions. It is all too confusing: Bitcoin, Ethereum, XRP, Tether, Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin SV, Litecoin, Binance Coin, Tezos, and etc.
However, for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the US Government was guilty of the same multiplicity when it came to its currencies: they have different backing; they have different functions. At one point in US monetary history, someone’s wallet could have held five or more types of US currency: United States Notes, Fractional Currency, Gold Certificates, National Bank Notes, Silver Certificates, Treasury Coin Notes, Federal Reserve Bank Notes, Federal Reserve Notes. And, this list does not include coins.
We are all familiar with Federal Reserve Notes. These are the only notes printed and issued today. But, in the 1880s, for example, here were the currencies available in the US:
United States Notes: low-denomination fiat notes without backing (until 1879) and used for everyday transactions
Fractional Currency: notes ranging in denomination from 3 cents to 50 cents, replacing scarce silver coin
Gold Certificates: higher denomination notes backed by gold and used mainly for interbank transfers
National Bank Notes: mid-denomination notes backed by Government securities and used in everyday business
Silver Certificates: low-denomination notes backed by silver and silver dollars and used for everyday transactions along with United States Notes
Looking at this picture of US currencies, the present cryptocurrency situation does not look all that extraordinary.
The research into the history of money can gives us insight into state of currency and perhaps point a way forward. This is what Noll Historical Consulting was created to do.