When bank notes were fun

posted in: Finance sector | 2

The ever fascinating blog of the New York Fed tells us that, among the many different types of bank note issued by around 1,600 US banks during the nineteenth century, some included pictures of Santa Claus.

Source: Liberty Street Economics http://libertystreeteconomics.newyorkfed.org/2014/12/historical-echoes-santa-claus-as-legal-tender.html#.VJWIRl4gA
Source: http://libertystreeteconomics.newyorkfed.org/2014/12/historical-echoes-santa-claus-as-legal-tender.html

Only in 1861 did the Federal Government start issuing paper currency; from that point the Treasury had a monopoly on note issuance. Before that date, banks were free to issue their own currency and to make it as colourful, striking or entertaining as possible. Christmas was made an official holiday in many northern states in the mid-1800s and some banks issued festive banknotes to celebrate. The figure of Santa Claus had become newly famous in North America at that time after the success of a poem A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore, which has the famous opening lines:

‘T was the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

A happy holiday season to all readers!

2 Responses

  1. Shaocheng Yin

    Very nice and fun Christmas present,although today I can get it.

    However, after the creation of a bank note, it has the profound social significance. It not only represents the wealth, more important is that it defines the pattern of the world. From this point, it overturns the whole world.

    And Dear Director–Mr. Simon, could we make a bold vision? if one day bank notes are disappeared from this world, and the wealth is to be defined in its real name, how our life will be a big picture?

    Give an echo to history, please! Notes may be a false creation, just such as banking has been banned in some countries in the Middle Ages.

    • Simon Taylor

      I suspect that in the future, possibly not far from now, the idea that we used physical bit of paper (or plastic) to transact business will be thought of as rather quaint. Notes are not false, so long as everyone believes they are a trusted source of value that will be honoured by everyone else. So they reflect the level of trust in a society, and particularly in the government and monetary institutions. In countries where these are in doubt, then so is confidence in money.

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