MONEY has always fascinated people. Those hooked on the...

Salmagundi

May 05, 1992

MONEY has always fascinated people. Those hooked on the trivial and the obscure might have fun browsing through a flimsy paperback on the subject, with the amusing title, " 'You can't count a billion dollars!' And Other Little-Known Facts About Money" by Barbara Seuling. Among the tidbits of note:

* "The first coin bearing the name of the United States of America was the Fugio cent of 1787. It bore the motto 'Mind Your Business.' "

* "The first U.S. Mint was closed only for the Fourth of July and Christmas, unless there was a yellow fever epidemic, in which case it was closed for months at a time. Workers at the Mint had to bring their lunch from home -- they were not allowed to go out. Once they arrived at 5:00 A.M., they were not allowed to leave until 8:00 P.M. -- quitting time."

* "Until 1965 our U.S. silver coinage was almost unchanged, but in 1964 there was a coin shortage in which the silver dollar, the Kennedy half-dollar and the wartime nickel of the 1940s had almost completely disappeared from circulation. The cause was blamed, among other things, on the proliferation of coin collectors and vending machines. The silver shortage caused the removal of silver from dimes and quarters and reduced it in half-dollars. In 1970, it was removed from half-dollars and dollars as well."

* "When England prohibited the printing of paper money by the colonies in 1764, the Americans defiantly went on printing it. Patriot Paul Revere issued some in Massachusetts. The money, called 'continentals,' kept losing value because there was nothing to support it, but it helped win the Revolutionary War. Nobody in Europe could figure out just how much money the colonies had, and it confused them."

* "In the Virginia and Maryland colonies, tobacco was used as money during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries."

* "The life expectancy of a dollar bill is about eighteen months."

* "In 1916 dirty paper money was sent to Washington to be laundered. If the money was found to be in good condition, it was washed, ironed, and reissued, saving the government a few hundred dollars a day in printing costs."

* "The first and only U.S. paper currency to bear the portrait of a woman was the one-dollar silver certificate in 1886. The woman portrayed was Martha Washington."

* "There are still more than 300 ten-thousand dollar bills in circulation, although they have not been printed since 1944."

* "The piggy bank is not named after the pig but after a kind of clay. Almost every home once had kitchen utensils made of a common clay known as pygg. Money was often kept in a household pot or jug made of this material, and these containers came to be called pygg banks, or pyggy banks."

* "Americans save only 4.6 percent of their income; the Japanese put away 17.2 percent. . ."

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