ccieemeritus wrote: ↑
Tue Dec 05, 2017 2:38 am
The United States used to issue silver certificates (as opposed to “federal reserve notes”): dollar bills that you could cash in for silver. I have one (issued in the 1930’s). The US reneged on that agreement long ago....
Not quite that long. OK, yeah, that
long, but anyway, when I was a kid. Your ordinary wallet might well contain three different kinds of $5 bill: silver certificates with a blue Treasury seal; Federal Reserve notes with a green seal; and United States notes with a red seal.
So they told us in school that a silver certificate could be exchanged for "silver," which sounded really neat, until we found out that all that it mean was that if you took a $1 bill to a bank they would give you four quarters in change. Big deal. So much for the dream of saving up your birthday money and getting a little bullion bar at the bank. Quarters, at that time, were, of course made of silver (alloyed).
Silver certificates were issued up to 1964, and silver coins were replaced by the "copper sandwich" coins at about that time.
Silver coins were not, however, shiny like a proof set, except when they were very new. Just as people would go to the bank to get crisp new bills as gifts, they would get shiny new coins. I don't think they stayed shinier much longer than modern-day coins. I don't even like to think about how kids got mercury to play with, but it wasn't a rare event and one of the cool things you could so with it was rub it into a silver coin. It would form a thin layer of amalgam and, very briefly, become beautifully shiny, until the mercury itself tarnished. You couldn't ever get the mercury off afterwards. I don't know what happened to mercury-enhanced coins as they moved through circulation, I don't remember any problem spending them.
I'd like to know more about the engineering involved in development of the copper sandwich coins. Early vending machines... perhaps developed during the 1940s? but still in use when I was a kid... basically just detected the presence of a coin. I never actually used a slug, but foreign coins would work if they were the right size. But in the late 1950s and 1960s, and I think the technology is still in use today, if you dropped a coin into a vending machine, you'd actually hear a jingling sound that took over a second. What was happening was that the coin was passing through a fairly elaborate series of physical tests. It had to be the right size and weight, and when it bounced off a hard surface it had to bounce to the right height, and finally it rolled between magnets and the eddy currents in the highly conductive silver slowed it down; if it was made of anything less conductive, it would be going too fast and get diverted into the coin return bin. As for magnetic nickel Canadian coins, they didn't stand a chance. In short, the machine was crudely checking size, weight, elasticity, magnetism, and conductivity. It was quite a challenge for the mint to develop a coin that didn't use expensive silver but would still pass a coin rejector. Actually in the first few years the percentage of good coins that vending machines would not accept was pretty high, and I suspect they re-tuned them just a bit later.
P.S. Despite the currency being backed by precious metal, inflation during the early 1950s was hellacious, and one of my earlier memories of watching television was of a news program with an announcer pointing to a graphic of a "shrinking dollar," with different-sized pictures of a dollar bill.
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness; Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.