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Book Recommendation - "Fractional Money"

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I would like to recommend a rather remarkable history of the US monetary system, focusing on our efforts to develop a widely circulating and broadly accepted coinage for smaller transactions.


The book -- "Fractional Money", by Neil Carothers, was originally written as a PhD thesis in 1916, and was published in 1930. It very vividly describes the rather patched together and ever changing currency systems we had up through around 1880.


Early history, when Spanish and other European coinage dominated, is described, as are the various efforts at bimetalism, periodically changing coinage weights, the rationale behind various odd denominations (2c, 3c etc), introduction of the small cent, use of postage stamps and fractional paper during the civil war, the impact of silver and gold discoveries . . . a really fascinating book, with exceptional insights into numismatic and economic history.


I'd be curious to hear if others have run into it.

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I agree, it's a great book!


I like it because it's about the "why" of US coins, rather than the "what" (rarity, strike, grade, toning, etc.). Also, for a book on economics, it focuses much more on coins that typical "Financial Histories" do.


David Bowers recommended Fractional Money to me at the 1998 ANA and I was able to get one of the Bowers & Merena reprints from a numismatic bookseller. I haven't seen it listed by any of the usual numismatic booksellers in a few years, so you may have to hunt for it (unless it's on eBay), but it's well worth it!

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