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Tag Archives: coins

A nickel is worth more than a nickel

Having just emerged from the fiasco of last year's coin shortage (which I wrote about here and here), the U.S. Mint has a new problem on its hands. The melt value of the nickel, or five cent coin, has suddenly moved higher than the coin's face value.Thanks to the big rally in copper prices, a nickel coin is once again worth more than 5¢ https://t.co/2ZEkkxqEVR pic.twitter.com/2O2ce0eccN— John Paul Koning (@jp_koning) May 5, 2021 The melt value of a nickel refers to the market value of the...

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Hacksilver

1. Over the last month or two I've been following an interesting archaeological debate over the discovery of coinage. I thought I'd share it with you.2. It's generally accepted by archaeologists and numismatists that the first coins were invented in Lydia, modern day western Turkey, in the 7th Century B.C.E. (i.e. 610 B.C.E. or so). The idea quickly spread to Greece. The Lydians used electrum, a strange silver/gold mix, to make their discs. (I wrote about electrum coins here). I've included...

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Adopting a clean gold standard

 Last month I wrote an article about banning gold mining. It received plenty of feedback from different parts of the internet. Some loved it, some didn't. [ GATA | Boing Boing | Hackernews ]In this follow-up post, I want to outline a less draconian and more market-friendly alternative to banning gold mining.But first, let me quickly reprise the original blog post. Unlike coal or oil or wheat, gold never gets consumed. We mostly "use" gold by holding it in vaults where it is kept safe from...

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Pennies as state failure

We can all think of examples of state failure. The most obvious include the inability to protect citizens from criminals, failure to provide drinkable water, and incapacity to cope with a public health crisis like COVID-19. I would argue that the ongoing existence of the penny within a nation's borders is another example of state failure.The poster child for this particular example of state failure is the U.S. and its Lincoln penny. Many (though not all) developed nations have already rid...

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Getting up to monetary mischief

By Harcourt Romanticist [source] This post is dedicated to the protesters in Hong Kong. I am awed at how courageous they have been in the face of continuing pressure from China's Communist party. The same regime is complicit in persecuting Uighur Muslims and imprisoning two Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig. There are all sorts of creative forms of non-violent mischief that citizens can use to protest against oppressive governments. This post explores a sub-category of non-violent...

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Kyle Bass’s big nickel bet

In 2011, hedge fund manager Kyle Bass reportedly bought $1 million worth of nickels. Why on earth would anyone want to own 20 million nickels? Let's work out the underlying logic of this trade. A nickel weighs five grams, 75% of which is copper and the rest is nickel. At the time that Bass bought his nickels, the actual metal content of each coin was worth around 6.8 cents. So Bass was buying 6.8 cents for 5 cents, or $1.36 million worth of base metals for just $1 million. To realize this...

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The credit theory of money

  Over on the discussion board, Oliver and Antti suggest that I read two essays from Alfred Mitchell-Innes. Here are a few thoughts.  A British diplomat, Mitchell-Innes was appointed financial advisor to King Chulalongkorn of Siam in the 1890s as well as serving in Cairo. He eventually ended up in the British Embassy in Washington where he penned his two essays on money. The first, What is Money, attracted the attention of John Maynard Keynes, while the second essay, The Credit Theory of...

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Gold regulators

While our modern monetary system certainly has plenty of detractors, one of its successes is that we no longer need the services of the local gold regulator. In the late 1700s, the job of a gold regulator was to assay gold coins to determine if they were of the appropriate weight and fineness, modifying (ie 'regulating') the coin if necessary. When he was done, the gold regulator stamped the coin with his seal of approval and put it back into circulation.The job of regulating coins may...

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Two notions of fungibility

A few centuries ago, lack of fungibility used to be a big weakness of monetary systems. But technological and legal developments eventually solved the problem. Nascent systems like bitcoin are finding that they must wrestle all over again with fungibility issues.Fungibility exists when one member of a population of items is perfectly interchangeable with another. So for instance, because your grain of wheat can be swapped out with my grain without causing any sort of change to our relative...

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Failed monetary technology

Archaic and ignored monetary technologies can be very interesting, especially when they teach us about newer attempts to update our monetary system. I recently stumbled on a neat monetary innovation from the bimetallic debate of the late 1800s, Nicholas Veeder's Republic of Eutopia coin: During the bimetallic debates of the late 1800s, one of the more interesting compromises put forward was Nicolas Veeder's cometallic standard. His model 'Republic of Eutopia' coins (1866) had a plug with...

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