Coins were introduced as a method of payment around the 6th or 5th century BCE. The invention of coins is still shrouded in mystery: According to Herdotous (I, 94), coins were first minted by the Lydians, while Aristotle claims that the first coins were minted by Demodike of Kyrme, the wife of King Midas of Phrygia. Numismatists consider that the first coins were minted on the Greek island of Aegina, either by the local rulers or by king Pheidon of Argos.
Aegina, Samos, and Miletus all minted coins for the Egyptians, through the Greek trading post of Naucratis in the Nile Delta. It is certain that when Lydia was conquered by the Persians in 546 BCE, coins were introduced to Persia. The Phoenicians did not mint any coins until the middle of the fifth century BCE, which quickly spread to the Carthaginians who minted coins in Sicily. The Romans only started minting coins from 326 BCE.
Coins were brought to India through the Achaemenid Empire, as well as the successor kingdoms of Alexander the Great. Especially the Indo-Greek kingdoms minted (often bilingual) coins in the 2nd century BCE. The most beautiful coins of the classical age are said to have been minted by Samudragupta (335-376 CE), who portrayed himself as both conqueror and musician.
The first coins were made of electrum, an alloy of silver and gold. It appears that many early Lydian coins were minted by merchants as tokens to be used in trade transactions. The Lydian state also minted coins, most of the coins mentioning king Alyattes of Lydia. Some Lydian coins have a so-called legend, a sort of dedication. One famous example found in Caria reads “I am the badge of Phanes” – it is still unclear who Phanes was.
In China, gold coins were first standardized during the Qin dynasty (221-207 BCE). After the fall of the Qin dynasty, the Han emperors added two other legal tenders: silver coins and “deerskin notes”, a predecessor of paper currency which was a Chinese invention.
Sure you can find gold in jewelry boxes, but with a little creativity you can find gold in all sorts of unusual places. In fact, the Montana Standard reported on one man who looks for gold and other old treasures inside abandoned outhouses and latrines. Here are several strange places where people have found gold, cash and other valuables. Take a look around, and maybe you can find some too.
Rivers and Creeks
Do you have an old river or creek on your property? Consider dragging it for treasure. Thieves throughout history have stashed the evidence in a convenient creek or river while being pursued by the cops. If they were caught and locked up, they would not have been able to retrieve it. Jars of gold coins, cash and other treasure have been recovered from local rivers.
Another place to check for stashed valuables is under small bridges. There have been cases of drug dealers stuffing their money between the slats on either side of a river bridge.
Under Fence Posts
During and just after the depression, many people stored cash or gold in the holes created by fence posts. When a fence post was put in place, the hole it sat in was perfect for storing a little bit of treasure.
You might also find gold hidden under the dirt in what used to be a personal garden. Sometimes people would place valuables in a jar and bury it under garden crops.
If you are exploring an older home, look in the basement for pipes leading to nowhere that are capped off at the end. These false pipes are places where gold and valuables may be found.
Cell Phones and Computers
With a little research, you can discover how to get the gold out of old cell phones and computers. If you know what you are doing you can pop out the precious metal in a matter of a few minutes. There is usually not a large amount of gold in small electronics, but if you have access to several it can easily add up.
Under the Floors of a Barn
Treasure hunters look at an old barn and see a huge treasure chest. When banks were unstable, people often hid valuables under loose floorboards in a barn or other outside building.
Inside Old Medicine Cabinets
Medicine cabinets created many decades ago usually included a small opening for razor blades. This doubled as a good place to hide coins, cash or jewelry.
Holes in the Walls
It may be a stereotype, but every treasure hunter knows that looking behind picture frames and shelving is worth the effort. People from previous generations may have created hidden spaces in the wall to keep envelopes full of cash or gold coins. If the wall behind a painting looks unusual, or if a board seems loose, poke around a little. You might just find something valuable.
Trophies and Medals
Sports trophies and high school medals were sometimes made with thin layers of gold, gold leaf or occasionally even solid gold pieces. Have old trophies and medals checked out by a jeweler to see if they contain real gold. They may be worth more than their sentimental value.
People in past generations had many reasons for hiding cash and gold on their properties. They may have mistrusted banks, or they might have died before they could give hidden cash to an intended recipient. They may also be criminals looking to hide the evidence until they could go back for it. Valuables lost for any of these reasons may be sitting somewhere on or near your property just waiting for someone to find them.
It’s not just paper. From the first notes issued by the Continental Congress to the latest star-spangled bills released by the Federal Reserve, the history of money in America is laced with rebellion, propaganda, and—of course—lots and lots of wealth. It’s awkwardly beautiful.
The history of paper currency, specifically, serves as a curious lens through which to understand the origins of this complicated nation. Like the government itself, money in America dates back to 1776 when the Continental Congress issued the country’s first official dollar bills. But before and well after that, it had been a free-for-all with any bank or state able to issue its own currency. It wasn’t until the 20th century that the nation’s currency would be standardized and even recognizable to present-day observers.
Appropriately enough, the word “dollar” can be traced back to the early days of New York City. In the 17th century, New York was a Dutch settlement known as New Amsterdam, and the currency of choice was the leeuwendaler, or lion dollar. An abbreviated version of the word became widely used in all 13 colonies not only to refer to the Dutch currency but also the peso de ocho (piece of eight), or Spanish dollar.
In the years leading up to America’s independence, each of the colonies started issuing its own currency. Some used the term dollar, and others used British denominations such as shillings and pence. When the American Revolution began in 1775, however, the Continental Congress issued the nation’s first paper currency: the United States Dollar. These were commonly known as Continentals, and the British quickly took to counterfeiting them as a method of economic warfare.
Counterfeiting was hardly a new problem. Even colonial currencies had anti-counterfeiting measures already in place. Common methods involved including intricate patterns and even use actual plant leaves in the printing process to create unique patterns on the notes. Of course, adding the phrase “’Tis DEATH to Counterfeit” also served as a grim reminder of the punishment for the crime:
The back of a 1770 Maryland dollar that could be exchanged in London for four shillings and six pence worth of gold
The design of the first Continentals largely resembles the colonial currencies already in circulation. The denominations ran from one sixth of a dollar up to $80, and each note featured an ornate border with text that read “United States of North America.” Now familiar iconography also appeared on the notes, namely the unfinished pyramid with 13 levels for the original 13 colonies. Whether it’s an early reference to Manifest Destiny or a secret Masonic symbol embedded by the Illuminati, the pyramid would later gain an all-seeing eye on top and become the back of the Great Seal of the United States.
A $50 Continental note from 1779
Over the course of the Revolution, the Continental Congress would issue over $240 million worth of these notes. The currency was rapidly devalued due, in part, to highly skilled British counterfeiters flooding the market with fakes. Inflation spread so fast that the notes were practically worthless by 1781, a crisis that ultimately led to the idea that any currency in the United States would need to be backed by silver or gold or… something.
The Coinage Act of 1792 would define the silver dollar as the primary unit of money in the United States. Signed by George Washington himself, the law established the Mint as well as the coin system still used today—from the copper penny to the silver dime all the way up to the gold $10 eagle. Only coins were considered legal tender, however. It took nearly a century before any semblance of order would emerge in the paper money game and, namely, before paper currency would be considered legal tender.
The Wildcat Era
Things got complicated as the newly independent United States started to grow. While the Coinage Act gave the young nation a currency, the federal government didn’t issue banknotes until the Civil War. This left the task of printing paper money to the states and to private banks. You can imagine the chaos that ensued.
Throughout the early 1800s, there was an endless variety of banknotes. All of the paper money looked different, and the further you traveled away from the issuing bank, the less it was worth. For example, a $5 bill from the Agricultural Bank of Tennessee might only be worth $4 in New York. Banks would keep logs of various banknotes and their exchange rates, an especially difficult task in an era before modern communications. And most importantly, the private banknotes were not legal tender. They were only worth something if the issuing bank could redeem them.
An example of wildcat currency from the early 19th century
To make things even trickier, scam artists got involved. Since any bank chartered by a state could start printing money, some people would open up so-called “wildcat banks” in a remote region and start issuing private banknotes. Because the banks were out of the way—especially out West—it was more difficult for people to redeem those banknotes, and the notes would be worthless if the bank failed.
There was another big problem with the wildcat era, also known as the “Free Banking period.” Counterfeiting was easy. Any crook could take worthless wildcat currency, scratch off the name of the failed bank and replace it with that of a legitimate one. Because bookkeepers wouldn’t always know what a specific bank’s design looked like, they were easily tricked. Eventually, the problems caused by wildcat currency would lead the federal government to create a national banking system with a national currency. The Civil War played a role, too, of course.
The Birth of the Greenback
The Civil War was a complex crisis that was complicated even further by the limited amount of legal tender in circulation. Again, paper money was not considered legal tender up until this point. Even private banknotes were supposed to be backed by gold or silver.
War is expensive, and both the Union and the Confederacy needed a way to pay soldiers. The South rushed to print its own money, and the first Confederate dollars entered circulation just two months after the Southern states split off from the rest of the nation. Sometimes referred to as “Greybacks,” these bank notes were not backed by gold or silver, although it was written on the bills that they’d be redeemed “six months after the ratification of a treaty of peace between the Confederate States and the United States.” That obviously never happened.
While some Confederate notes featured leaders like Jefferson Davis, this $10 from 1862 depicts a slave picking cotton.
Short-lived as they were, the Confederate dollars bore some design elements that would also appear on United States currency in the years to come. The ornate but simple border, engraving style, and two-color printing should look familiar.
As the Confederate States started circulating its own dollars, the Union rushed to find a financial solution of its own. Congress passed a law to print $50 million worth of Demand Notes in the summer of 1861. These banknotes were considered legal tender and were backed by bonds. By 1863, however, they were almost all out of circulation, since the government used them to pay customs duties.
Abraham Lincoln was originally featured on this $10 United States banknote from 1862.
Taking the suggestion of an Illinois businessman, President Lincoln convinced Congress to approve a plan for issuing unbacked paper currency in 1862. The Legal Tender Act authorized $150 million worth of full legal tender Treasury notes. While the design largely resembled the limited Demand Notes, the Treasury seal is stamped on the front of each note. The large rectangular bills earned the nickname “Greenbacks,” naturally, because the backs were printed with green ink.
Greenbacks represented the first widely issued paper money in the United States since the days of the Continentals. The banknotes were printed by the National Bank Note Company and featured a number of techniques not only to celebrate America’s national identity but also to prevent counterfeiting. The engraving was performed by a master craftsman and produced a unique texture on the paper. The baroque designs on both sides the banknotes were produced with a little bit of mechanical help. A device akin to a Spirograph enabled the engravers to produce the beautiful geometric scrollwork patterns that can still be found on American money today. Even the recognizable typeface remains largely the same.
Remarkably, this is only the beginning of America’s growing obsession with money. After the war and throughout the Gilded Age, the designs became intensely sophisticated and eventually legendary. Every banknote was a work of art.
The Silver Certificates
After covering all the chaos of the Civil War and the Wild West, it’s time to talk about the golden age of American currency design. While greenbacks remained widely used for the rest of the 19th century, new types of paper money were issued, and holy hell, were they beautiful.
Let’s start with Silver Certificates. In 1886, the United States issued the first and only banknote to feature the face of a real woman on the front. (Some fictional women did appear on banknotes.) Martha Washington appears on the original $1 Silver Certificate. (She was also on the back of a different Silver Certificate along with her husband George.) As the name implies, the banknotes were redeemable for real silver and were offered in denominations of $1 through $1,000 over the course of nearly a century.
To this day, the Silver certificate from 1886 is the only American banknote to feature a real woman on the front.
As you can see, the once-simple borders have evolved to include more scrollwork and text. The almost spiderweb-like designs around the large numeral one embellishes the earlier style of the Greenbacks. In a similarly grandiose style, the engraving of Martha Washington is almost lifelike. Believe it or not, this is one of the more humble Silver Certificates.
On the heels of the World’s Columbia Exhibition in Chicago, the federal government released the Education Series which is widely regarded as the most beautiful American money of all. Perhaps the most complex design is the $1 bill featuring Columbia—who was not a real woman—pointing at the then-newly completed Washington Monument.
The $1 Silver Certificate from the 1896 Series, also known as the Education Series
And this is the aforementioned back featuring both George and Martha Washington. Check out the angels darting out of the corners!
The back of the $1 Silver Certificate from the 1896 Series
It gets better. The $5 Silver Certificate from the same year is batshit awesome. Featuring a depiction of “Electricity Presenting Light to the World,” it not only presents a startling, almost futurist aesthetic but also celebrates the new American dominance in technology and innovation. Thomas Edison must’ve loved it.
The $5 Silver Certificate from the 1896 Series
During this same time period the Legal Tender notes remained in circulation. However, it was on the Silver Certificates—and, to a lesser degree, the Gold Certificates—that the most recognizable aspects of American money design started to be come fairly standardized.
Running Antelope is featured on the $5 Silver Certificate from 1899.
The shape of the borders and location of the portrait would evolve slightly over time, but this is pretty much what American money looked like for the entire 20th century. Silver Certificates can still but used as legal tender today, though the government stopped issuing them in 1957.
The Gold Certificates (With a Little Technicolor, Too)
The federal government started issuing Gold Certificates a few years before Silver Certificates, though they weren’t quite as widespread. The earliest series in 1865 came only in high denominations and looked a bit like the Legal Tender notes introduced around the same time. You could call them “goldbacks.”
However, in the early years of the 20th century, a new and rather familiar design appeared. Using a three-ink printing process, the Gold Certificates were wonderfully vivid, so much so that the 1905 Series is commonly known as the “Technicolor Series.” You can see why.
George Washington on the stunning $20 Gold Certificate from 1905
The federal government continued to print Gold Certificates in denominations as high as $100,000 until 1934. The last of them look very similar to the standardized currency design, although some still had that sick bright gold back.
The back of a $1,000 Gold Certificate from 1907. Alexander Hamilton was on the front.
It really screams America, doesn’t it?
Little Bitty and Slightly Less Pretty
Everything changed once again when Congress passed the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. This set up a system whereby Federal Reserve Notes were distributed to various Federal Reserve Banks around the country. The banknotes are legal tender backed by Fed, though Gold and Silver Certificates continued to be produced for quite some time. However, it was the new Fed system that brought us the timeless American money design that survived most of the 20th century.
At first, the notes remained as large as earlier banknotes. The front featured dead presidents, black and red or blue ink printed on a very special paper from Crane & Co.
This $100 Federal Reserve Note from 1914 depicts an unusual profile of Ben Franklin
Many of the images on the back portrayed famous moments in American history or more generic depictions of American industry and values.
This $5 Federal Reserve Note from 1914 shows the struggles of early settlers
Then came the most dramatic shift. American money got smaller. While all bills up until this point had been roughly 7.5-by-3 inches, every single banknote began to shrink to about 6-by-2.5 inches in 1928. The government decided to shrink the bills for a number of different reasons, the most impactful of which was the savings on paper.
The small bills also got a redesign, one that remained in place until 1996. Since many of these bills are still in circulation—in fact, the $1 bill remains unchanged—you can spot them instantly. You’ve probably never seen a $10,000 bill, though.
Salmon Chase appears on the $10,000 Federal Reserve Note from 1934
While it’s unusual not to see a president on more modern money, Chase was an exceptional player in the history of American money. He was Secretary of the Treasury under Abraham Lincoln and introduced the nation’s first paper money and national bank. The federal government last issued the $10,000, $5,000, $1,000, and $500 in 1934. Today, the largest bill in circulation is the $100, some say to make drug trafficking and money laundering more difficult.
Increasingly Awful Redesigns
This brings us to the ambitious redesign of 1996. In an effort to improve anti-counterfeiting measures, the federal government redesigned five of the six remaining denominations of Federal Reserve Notes: $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. The presidents’ heads got bigger and were moved off center. Much—but not all—of the beautiful engraving and scrollwork on the borders went away. New methods of thwarting counterfeiters, like color changing ink, also appeared on some of the bills. Still, it didn’t take long for a clever Chicago man to crack it and start printing virtually identical counterfeit $100 bills in his basement.
The familiar new $100 bill that first appeared in 1996
The design from 1996 wasn’t the worst. However, the federal government updated the design yet again in 2003 adding more colors, more security measures, and a truly awful portrayal of American sophistication. Remember the star-spangled bill I mentioned earlier?
Oh say can you see that ugly flag graphic?
American money design is invariably a representation of who we are as a country—or at least what we’d like to be. This is why the 2016 redesign that incorporates women and minorities is such a big deal. We see the images on paper money daily, some more than others. But more importantly, it’s a message we’re sending out to the world when the dollar leaves these borders. When outsiders enter it, it’s perhaps the government-made product they handle the most.
None of this is to say these slivers of ink and paper define us. Come on, though. It’s America. Sure they do.
The stock market is a complicated entity to understand. We’re bombarded with information about stocks, and the ebbs and flows of the trading day, but some people might have a hard time understanding the basics.
My goal here is to break down the basics of the stock market – the stuff you need to know if you want to impress your friends at dinner one night.
Get ready for Stock Market 101, and buckle in.
Disclaimer: This post will by no means make you a stock market expert. If you’re looking for trading tips and advice, I suggest you consult someone who does that for a living.
Dow Jones Industrial Average, Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500
These are the three bigwigs that make up the New York Stock Exchange (the place where most of the trading goes down). Each of these is called a “stock market index,” which is just a fancy way of saying that they’re methods used to measure a section of the stock market.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is an index that measures the stock trading of 30 different blue-chip companies, ranging from American Express to Walt Disney. Implemented in 1896, it’s probably the most-watched stock index in the United States.
The Nasdaq Composite is also closely watched for other reasons. Its more than 3,000 components consist primarily of technology companies and growth companies, but it also holds components of companies not in the United States.
The third horse in this race is the S&P 500. The S&P first came on to the scene in 1923, and the 500 stands for the number of companies that have their stock included in this index.
What Is a Stock, Anyway?
Stocks are pretty simple. Investors buy stock for a particular company because they feel that the particular company’s valuation will increase. You invest in the stock, sit on it and watch it appreciate (go up in value) – or depreciate and go down.
There are two types of stocks: common stocks and preferred stocks. Common stock is what most people think of when they think of stock. You buy shares in the company (it could be one share or 1,000) – and you watch the value go up or down. The goal is to buy low and sell high. Depending on the investment policies of the company, they may or may not give money back to the shareholders in the form of a dividend.
Preferred stocks are a combination of a traditional stock and the bond (more on bonds later!). The price doesn’t change as much as regular stocks, and there’s always a dividend. Common stockholders get the right to vote on certain matters, while preferred stockholders do not.
Shares and Stock Valuation
Whether the stock is common or preferred, publicly traded companies are sold in shares. When you buy stock in Alphabet (parent company of Google) or Snapchat or Hershey’s, you buy a small piece of the company, a share. The actual percentage of the company that’s represented by each share depends on how many shares are available for trading as well as the terms for shares that aren’t publicly available. These latter types of shares are typically reserved for company executives and early investors.
Stock valuation is a term for figuring out how much a stock is worth. Part of that is based on share price, but it goes beyond that. We’ll get into some of this later on, but for now, what causes stock prices to move?
What Causes Stock Market Fluctuations?
The basics of stock prices fall under the principles of supply and demand. If more people want to buy a stock (the demand is high) than how much stock is available to trade (supply is low), the price of that stock moves up. On the other hand, if people don’t want to buy a stock (low demand), and there is a surplus of said stock (high supply), the price of that stock will be low.
After that, it gets a little more complicated. There’s also a global economic element to this.
“It’s a Small World” may be a Disney song, but it becomes truer every day in business. The big corporations listed on the stock market tend to have investments all over the globe. Imagine something happens – anything from an oil spill to the election of an unexpected politician. Whatever it is, if it causes a big enough shock over a big enough area, it may cause people to take their money out of stocks and put it back into bonds, which are considered safer assets due to guaranteed returns.
Making things even more complicated is the fact that you can’t value a company on the share price alone. Let’s dig in just a little deeper.
Dividends, Dividend Yield and Market Capitalization
Dividends are the payments made by a corporation to its shareholders, and are based off of the company’s profits. If a company does well, the shareholders’ dividends increase. If a company is doing poorly, the shareholders’ dividends would decrease, and the holder would probably consider selling them off.
Market capitalization is simply the price of individual stock of a particular company multiplied by the number of shares being traded.
So if a company’s share is worth $100, and there are 50 million shares being traded, the company’s market capitalization would be $5 billion. If a company’s share is worth $50, but there are 150 million shares being traded, that company’s market capitalization would be $7.5 billion.
That’s why you cannot value a company based solely off of the price of their stocks.
Also, from an investing standpoint, you should be wary of investing in stocks simply because they’re trading at a high dollar value. You want to take a look at what is called the “dividend yield,” which is how much a company pays out in dividends each year divided by its share price.
To get the basics on dividend yields, let’s do a quick example. Let’s say Sabre is trading for $20 a share, and Dunder Mifflin is trading for $40 a share. If both companies pay out a dividend of $1 per share a year and you have the money to buy into one or the other, which company would you invest in based off of the dividend yield?
If you said Sabre, you’re right. Sabre would be yielding at 5%, while Dunder Mifflin would be yielding at 2.5%.
Initial Public Offering (IPO)
Snapchat is a perfect example to explain what an initial public offering is, simply because they just issued their IPO recently. It has dominated headlines and is probably the most anticipated public offering since Facebook, a fellow competitor in the social media space.
An IPO is the first sale of stock from a private company looking to be publicly traded. IPOs are usually used to raise capital to expand in some way, shape or form, by getting investors to invest cash into a business for a hopeful large return later on.
Companies go public for a variety of reasons. It enables them to raise a sizable wad of cash in order to carry out future plans for expansion and continued operations. It also allows the founders and initial investors to begin to reap the rewards of their hard work by making some of their own stock publicly available.
Bonds and Treasury Bills
Bonds and treasury bills (or T-bills) are similar and different at the same time. Although they aren’t stocks, if you’re going to participate in the market, it probably helps to understand how they work. Both bonds and treasury bills involve an upfront investment with the understanding that a fixed interest rate will give you a solid return on the investment – but how long it takes for you to get that return and how the return is calculated differs between the two.
Bonds offer a fixed rate of interest over a fixed period of time. You don’t get as much of a return on your investment as you would if you were to invest in the stock market, but since it’s a fixed rate, volatility is a non-issue.
T-Bills are bought for a shorter period of a time and are always bought back less than a year later. T-Bills are also only available in denominations of $1,000 and have a maximum purchase of $5 million. They are purchased from an auction setting, and your return value is calculated by the difference between the discounted value you paid for the T-bill and the amount you receive back.
Hypothetically, if you invested $9,000 in a 13-week T-bill, you would be getting a letter from the U.S. Government saying “Hey, pal. Thanks for purchasing this T-bill. In 13 weeks, with our 2.04% interest rate, we’re going to cut you a check for $9,183 for your trouble.” As a result, you just made $183 on your investment for letting the government borrow $9,000 for 13 weeks.
Overwhelmed yet? If, on the other hand, what you’re feeling is closer to excitement than exhaustion, you might want to figure out how to get started investing.
From kids’ allowances to how much you spend on interest, these financial figures will surprise you
One of the great things about being The Ultimate Cheapskate and writing about smart spendingfor a living is that you get all kinds of interesting press releases and stumble across other fascinating frugal factoids almost every day. I keep a running list of what I consider to be the most shocking spending facts I come across, then annually I write up my Top 10 list for that year.
Here’s my 2012 edition, not in any particular order — you can decide for yourself which you find most surprising, or perhaps most disturbing.
MIKE POWELL/GETTY IMAGES
The average allowance an American child now receives is about $780 per year, or $65 per month.
1. The average allowance an American child now receives is about $780 per year, or $65 per month, according to a recent study by the American Institute of CPAs. At that pay rate, I’m thinking seriously about giving up this writing stuff and becoming a kid again. What’s more — just like with most American adults’ paychecks — hardly any of that $780 ends up unspent and in the bank.
2. Speaking of young people and money, the website Creditloan.com says the typical American now first takes on debt(s) — usually a credit card and/or car loan — while still in high school. Heck, when I was in high school, my parents didn’t even have a credit card! But nowadays, the average American adult has 13 outstanding credit obligations at any one time.
Join AARP Today — Receive access to exclusive information, benefits and discounts.
3. There are signs that “McMansion Mania” — the trend toward Americans wanting ever larger, more expensive homes — may be slowing or even reversing itself, according to data from the real estate website Trulia.com and the National Association of Home Builders. In the 1950s, the average American home was just under 1,000 square feet; by the 2000s it had ballooned to 2,300 square feet, despite steadily decreasing family size during the same period. But since 2010 our appetite for supersized housing has been waning, with most Americans now saying they prefer 2,100 square feet or less, and a third wanting to keep it under 2,000 square feet.
4. We may be slightly less intent on supersizing our homes, but our hunger for fast food — and spending on it — continues to grow. Americans now spend more than $110 billion annually on fast food. And a study by BankRate.com found that when people use a charge card to pay, they spend on average of about 50 percent more than when they pay with cash. That’s hard on both our wallets and our waistlines.
5. Ever wonder which type of sales offers are the biggest turn-ons for consumers? According to a survey conducted this holiday season by the Omnibus Company, consumers are most tempted by buy one, get one free (45 percent) deals, followed by specific dollar amount discounts or percentage off deals (17 percent each) and free shipping (16 percent).
6. In 2012, the total amount of outstanding student loan debt hit the $1 trillion mark for the first time in U.S. history, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The average student amasses more than $20,000 in student loan debt to earn the first degree, and an additional $17,000 to earn a master’s degree. That’s a lot, but not compared with medical school students, who leave school owing roughly $113,000.
7. The average amount of a new car loan is now more than $30,000 — a 40 percent increase over the past 10 years — and about 45 percent of those loans are now longer than six years. Americans own 439 cars per every 1,000 people, which is actually fewer cars per capita than many European countries. Despite that fact, Americans use roughly twice as much energy as most Europeans.
8. Paying $199 to buy a new iPhone 5 (basic, 16 GB model) doesn’t seem too outlandish if you really have your heart set on owning one. But your appetite for all the latest apps may not be so great when you take a look at this data compiled by the firm Avalaunch Media. When you factor in monthly service plans and other costs, the true cost of owning that iPhone 5 is likely to run between $1,000 and $2,500 per year.
9. According to a 2012 Employee Benefit Research Institute survey, only 14 percent of American workers say that they are “very confident” that they will have enough money to live comfortably in retirement and 30 percent of workers said they have less than $1,000 in savings and investments. Maybe ignorance is bliss, since the institute also found that 56 percent of workers have never even attempted to calculate how much they will need to save for a comfortable retirement.
10. And finally, prepare for shock and awe. According to the website CreditLoan.com, the average American will now pay more than $600,000 in interest over the course of a lifetime! Think about how much of that interest you could avoid by adopting the old-school philosophy many of our grandparents lived by: If you can’t afford to pay for it now, you really can’t afford it.
Money: it makes the world go round. The Federal Reserve estimates that there is currently somewhere around $1 trillion in US Currency currently in circulation. We all use it just about every day, we earn it so we can spend it, we save it (some more than others), but how much do we really know about it? Here are 20 off-the-wall facts about money that you may wish you never knew.
Get Competing Auto Loan Offers In Minutes
Compare rates from multiple vetted lenders. Discover your lowest eligible rate.
And we wonder why our country is going broke? Do we really even need more pennies to be manufactured? These annoying little crumbs of our cash, (that are commonly left in the “Take a Penny, Leave a Penny” dishes at convenience stores because of their miniscule value), are actually costing our government 2.4 times their value to be created.
2. More than 2 million Americans live on less than $2 a day.
This sad truth is a result of our economy in America today. But let’s look at the bright side of this interesting tid-bit: if 2 million Americans have figured out how to live off a budget as small as $60 a month, there must be some places in our personal budgets that could be cut back a little, right?
3. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing uses 9.7 tons of ink each day.
The United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing (also called the “Money Factory”) has two active facilities from which it prints money today. There is one located in Washington, D.C. and another in Fort Worth, Texas. Together these two facilities use a mind-blowing 9.7 tons of ink per day. That is almost the equivalent weight of 3 cars!
4. 5% of the people who buy lottery tickets account for 51% of all tickets sold.
While we are on this subject, it should be noted that a person who drives 10 miles to buy their lottery ticket is actually 3 times more likely to be killed in a car accident while driving to buy the ticket than they are to win the jackpot. How’s that for some odds?
5. Gambling generates more revenue each year than movies, spectator sports, theme parks, cruise ships and recorded music COMBINED.
That’s right. This $34.6 billion dollar industry runs the table, beating out Tom Cruise, the Dallas Cowboys, Mickey Mouse, a week in the Caribbean and the Rolling Stones. (mental_floss)
6. 94% of bills are contaminated with bacteria.
A 2002 study found that approximately 94% of paper money that moves from hand to hand is contaminated with bacteria. While most of these micro-organisms are actually not harmful to your health, there are around 7% that can be hazardous to your health.
These dangerous pathogens include those that cause pneumonia and staph infections. The flu virus, which can normally survive outside the human body for a period of only 48 hours, can actually live on a dollar bill for over 10 days.
7. It takes around 8000 folds before a bill will tear from use.
(I wonder who took the time to figure this one out!) When a bill is too worn or shows excessive signs of use, it will generally be removed from circulation by the Federal Reserve and replaced with a crisp new version. The life of a bill generally depends on its denomination. A $1 bill has a life expectancy of approximately 5.9 years, where a $100 bill can expect to survive in circulation for up to 15 years.
8. There is more Monopoly money printed every year than actual cash.
The popular board game prints up to $50 billion of its currency each year. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has a much smaller budget it must follow, with only $826.7 million allocated for printing costs in 2014. Last year they produced approximately 26 million bills a day, with a total face value of over $1.3 billion.
9. 90% of all US bills have at least a trace of cocaine on them.
A scientific study conducted in 2009 concluded that somewhere between 90-94% of all bills in circulation carry traces of cocaine on them. This is largely due to the practices of drug traffickers who move large amounts of cash with the drug all over their hands, and the fact that the bills are often rolled up into straws and used to snort the drug. It is also believed that the rollers and brushes inside ATM machines further spread the cocaine across stacks of bills.
10. Only 8% of the world’s currency is actual physical money.
That’s right – it’s a digital world we live in. Only 8% of all the “money” around the world is actual physical cash. The rest is digital money that exists only on computers. Think about how often we buy or sell things online, or transfer money from one account to another with a simple phone call. The money goes from one place to another, yet we never actually see or touch it. This digital existence of currency makes up the vast majority of all cash around the world today.
11. Rats ate $10 billion of Pablo Escobar’s loose change.
It is reported that infamous drug lord, Pablo Escobar, had so much extra cash lying around that he lost an astounding $1 billion a year to rats. These rats, who apparently had very expensive taste, actually feasted on the piles of money stashed in Escobar’s warehouse. Escobar’s extensive wealth was so vast that he could not keep up with all the bills. (Don’t we all wish we had the same dilemma!)
Since he couldn’t just walk into the bank and deposit all of his dirty money, he would bundle rolls of $100 bills and store them in his warehouse, where the rats would enjoy the savory taste of his cold hard cash. Why he never thought of investing in a nice loyal cat or two to control the rat infestation is a mystery to many. If that isn’t crazy enough, it is also reported that his men would spend over $2500.00 a month to purchase rubber bands used to bind the rolled bundles of bills.
12. The largest denomination of US Currency was the $100,000 bill.
The largest bill ever printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was the $100,000 gold certificate, printed in 1934 and 1935. It was primarily used during business conducted between banks, and not really used with the public. It quickly became a thing of the past though, and while the US Mint has also printed bills in other large denominations (such as the $500, $1000, $5000 and $10000 bills), the $100 bill we are familiar with today has been the largest denomination printed in the US since 1969.
13. North Korea is the largest counterfeiter of US currency.
North Korea has mastered the art of counterfeiting our cash, specializing in a perfect replica of our $50 and $100 bills. These fakes are so impressive that they are referred to as “superdollars,” and are often only able to be detected with specialized equipment found at the Federal Reserve. As of 2009, an estimated $45 million worth of these phony bills have been identified, with millions more surely still in circulation.
14. The Secret Service was established to fight counterfeiting.
In 1865 during the Civil War, the US Government created the Secret Service not to provide protection of the president, but rather to fight the war on counterfeiters. Their duties were later expanded years later to include investigating fraud against the government and protection of important political figures.
15. The average allowance in the US is $65 a month.
According to a recent study released by the American Institute of CPA’s, the average monthly allowance for American children is close to $65 each month. This is a total of approximately $780 each year paid to our little ones, of which hardly anything is set aside for savings.
16. Americans spend $117 billion each year on fast food.
Ever wonder what American’s spend all their hard-earned cash on? According to recent reports, we spent $51 billion on our beloved pets in 2012, with $310 million of that specifically spent on pet costumes. We also poured out $96 billion for beer, $800 million for Girl Scout cookies, $500 million on twinkies and $65 billion for soda. Valentine’s Day is a big holiday in the US, with $1.7 billion being spent on flowers for that day alone, $11 billion on engagement rings, and $16 billion on the nearly 3 billion pounds of chocolate we consumed that year.
Some other interesting buys include Coffee: $11 billion, Over-the-Counter Teeth Whiteners: $1.4 billion, Tattoos: $2.3 billion, Tattoo Removal: $66 million, Video Games: $17 billion dollars, Alternative Medicine: $33.9 Billion, and Toilet Paper: $2.6 billion. One of the saddest expenditures? $18 billion spent on credit card late fees.
17. Credit Card debt now starts in high school.
According to a financial website, the typical American now begins taking on debt as early as high school. These debts are usually in the form of either credit cards or car loans. Is it any wonder our nation is in debt when our children are somehow permitted to take out a loan or sign up for a credit card before they even finish high school?
18. Secret design of the $1 dollar bill links it to the original 13 colonies.
If you look very closely at the $1 bill, you will notice a few interesting things tied to the number “13” in reference to the original 13 colonies. There are…
13 different representations of the number 13 on the bill
13 stars above the eagle
13 steps on the pyramid
13 vertical bars on the shield
13 horizontal stripes on the top of the shield
13 leaves and 13 berries on the olive branch in one of the eagle’s talons, and in its other there are 13 arrows
13 characters in “1776” and its Roman Numeral equivalent “MDCCLXXVI”
13 letters in “ANNUIT COEPTIS” and 13 letters in “E PLURIBUS UNUM”
There are also 13 segments to the worm-looking things that come off the sides of either circle on the back of the bill. On the front of the bill, on the Department of Treasury seal, there are 13 stars above the key. Many people claim to find sets of 13 other items on both the front and back of the bill, but these were the ones I was able to confirm at this point. How many can you spot?
19. 96% of employed people will not be able to retire at age 65.
According to the Employee Benefits Research Institute, approximately 96% of people who are currently employed, will not be able to collect their full Social Security retirement benefits when they reach the age of 65. Since the average American is living longer, the Social Security Administration had to make adjustments to be able to compensate for the additional payments it has to make.
So about 10 years ago it began implementing a plan that slowly extends the age you have to be before you can receive full benefits. This extension of work requirement really only affects younger workers, with people born after 1960 now having to wait until they are 67 before they are eligible for full benefits. Maybe you should start an account with one of these top wealth management companies.
20. If you have $10 in your pocket and no debts, you are wealthier than 25% of Americans.
As if this alone is not disturbing enough, take into consideration the fact that six members of the Walton family (the family that owns the Walmart fortune) are more wealthy than the lower 30% of Americans today. That’s right. These 6 individuals have more money between them than all the money combined of approximately 94.2 million people in our country today.
The Controversial History of South Africa And The Krugerrand
The South African Krugerrand is a gold coin that was first minted in 1967 and for some decades created a stir of controversy around the globe. Unusually for gold coins at the time, the Kruggerand could be converted into any currency and was introduced to help promote the South African mint. By 1980 the Krugerrand accounted for 90 per cent of the global coin market – despite some countries rejecting the coin due to its association with apartheid.
When the Republic of South Africa discovered a huge resource of gold in the 1960´s they were eager to market the metal to the world. However, at the time the purchase of gold ingots for private ownership was illegal, so the South African government decide to farm their gold out as coins as sold them at five per cent over the spot price.
The original Krugerrand gold coin contained one troy ounce of 22 karat gold, but the options were widened when three smaller coins were minted in 1980, a ½ ounce, ¼ ounce and 1⁄10 ounce. The face of the coin features the bust of Paul Kruger, the State President of the Republic of South Africa who was fondly regarded as Uncle after standing up to the British during the Second Boer War between 1899 and 1902.
Krugerrand collectable gold coins
The Krugerrand is a focal point of gold and economic history. Many countries used to protect their currency against gold – known as the gold standard. This practice however made it illegal for private owners to by gold ingots or bars, so the South African Government came up with the novel idea to produce gold coins and offer it as legal tender. This allowed South Africa to profit from sales and allowed investors to have a hedge should there be a collapse in their countries currency.
The Krugerrand gold coin was a very attractive investment, but it was not without controversy due to its association with the South African apartheid government. The political and economic situation in South Africa was predominantly controlled by the British with help for the Dutch. The country attracted white supremacists looking to profit from the land and subsequently suppressed the black natives.
The apartheid regime which was introduced in 1948 sparked a nationwide institution of racism which restricted the rights and liberties. Blacks were made to mine gold and other natural resources in what effectively was a violation of the Abolishment of Slavery Act 1807. Because of the atrocities committed by the British and the installed apartheid government some countries refused it´s citizen´s the right to buy the Krugerrand.
NATIONAL NAPPING DAY – Day After Return of Daylight Saving Time
NATIONAL NAPPING DAY
National Napping Day is observed annually the day following the return of daylight saving time. National Napping Day provides everyone with the opportunity to have a nap and catch up on the hour of sleep they lost due to the spring forward time change.
Mid-afternoon naps are an integral part of most cultures, and scientifically proven to be good for you.
A needed rest can make you feel better and also improve your mood. After having the extra amount of sleep, a person will notice that they will be more productive and energetic.
Numerous studies have shown that short 10-20 minute naps are the most effective when midday fatigue hits. Improvements in alertness, productivity and mood have all been shown to improve with this type of snooze.
Though there are some of us who are just not the napping kind, if you can reap those benefits, find a cozy spot for 10 minutes or so on National Napping Day.
HOW TO OBSERVE
Take a relaxing nap and use #NationalNappingDay to post on social media.
William Anthony, Ph.D., a Boston University Professor and his wife, Camille Anthony, created National Napping Day in 1999 as an effort to spotlight the health benefits to catching up on quality sleep. “We chose this particular Monday because Americans are more ‘nap-ready’ than usual after losing an hour of sleep to daylight saving time,” Anthony said in B.U.’s press release.
Whether you savor the extra sunlight in the summer or dread the jarring time jump, Daylight Saving Time is inevitable (at least in most parts of the country). Here are 10 things you should know before making the biannual change.
1. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN WAS HALF JOKING WHEN HE SUGGESTED IT.
More than a century before Daylight Saving Time (DST) was adopted by any major country, Benjamin Franklin proposed a similar concept in a satirical essay. In the piece, published in 1784, he argued:
All the difficulty will be in the first two or three days; after which the reformation will be as natural and easy as the present irregularity […] Oblige a man to rise at four in the morning, and it is more than probable he will go willingly to bed at eight in the evening; and, having had eight hours sleep, he will rise more willingly at four in the morning following.
In one prophetic passage, he pitched the idea as a money-saver (though at the time people would have been conserving candle wax rather than electricity). To enforce the out-there plan Franklin suggested taxing shutters, rationing candles, banning non-emergency coach travel after dark, and firing cannons at sunrise to rouse late-sleepers. While his essay clearly brought up some practical points, Franklin may have originally written it as an excuse to poke fun at the French for being lazy. He wrote that the amount of sunlight that goes wasted each morning would likely come as a shock to readers who “have never seen any signs of sunshine before noon.”
2. OFFICIAL CREDIT FOR THE IDEA GOES TO A BUG COLLECTOR.
The first serious case for DST came from a peculiar place. While working at a post office by day, an entomologist who did most of his bug hunting at night soon became frustrated by how early the sun set during the summer months. He reasoned that springing the clocks forward would allow more daylight for bug collecting—along with other evening activities. The clocks could be switched back in the winter when people (and bugs) were less likely to be found outdoors.
When the idea was proposed to a scientific society in New Zealand in 1895 it was panned for being pointless and overly complicated. Just two decades later, Daylight Saving Time would begin its spread across the developed world.
3. WWI PUSHED DAYLIGHT SAVING INTO LAW.
In 1916, Germany became the first country to officially adopt Daylight Saving Time. It was born out of an effort to conserve coal during World War I, and Britain, along with many other European nations, was quick to follow the Germans’ lead. It wasn’t until 1918 that the time change spread to the U.S. A year after entering the war, America began practicing DST as an electricity-saving measure. Most countries, including the U.S., ceased official observation of the switch following wartime. Until, that is …
4. IT GAINED RENEWED POPULARITY DURING THE ENERGY CRISIS.
The U.S. reconsidered DST in the 1970s, when, once again, the argument pivoted back to energy conservation. The oil embargo of 1973 had kicked off a nationwide energy crisis and the government was looking for ways to reduce public consumption. Daylight Saving Time was imposed in the beginning of 1974 to save energy in the winter months. Not everyone was enthusiastic about the change: Some of the harshest critics were parents suddenly forced to send their children to school before sunrise.
5. IT MAY ACTUALLY BE AN ENERGY WASTER.
Despite Daylight Saving Time’s origins as an energy saving strategy, research suggests it might actually be hurting the cause. One 2008 study conducted in Indiana found that the statewide implementation of DST two years earlier had boosted overall energy consumption by one percent. While it’s true that changing the clocks can save residents money on lighting, the cost of heating and air conditioning tends to go up. That extra hour of daylight is only beneficial when people are willing to go outside to enjoy it.
6. IT’S ALSO A HEALTH HAZARD.
Even if DST was good for your energy bill, that wouldn’t negate the adverse impact it can have on human health. Numerous studies show that the extra hour of sleep we lose by springing ahead can affect us in dangerous ways. An increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and susceptibility to illness have all been linked to the time change.
7. BUT THERE ARE SOME BENEFITS.
Though people love to complain about it, Daylight Saving Time isn’t all bad news. One notable benefit of the change is a decrease in crime. According to one study published in 2015, daily incidents of robbery dropped by seven percent following the start of DST in the spring. This number was heavily skewed by a 27 percent dip in robberies during the well-lit evening hours.
8. IT’S NOT OBSERVED NATIONWIDE.
DST has been widely accepted across the country, but it’s still not mandated by federal law. U.S. residents resistant to springing forward and falling back each year might consider moving to Arizona. The state isn’t exactly desperate for extra sunlight, so every spring they skip they time jump. This leaves the Navajo Nation, which does observe the change, in a peculiar situation. The reservation is fully located within Arizona, and the smaller Hopi reservation is fully located within the Navajo Nation. The Hopi ignores DST like the rest of Arizona, making the Navajo Nation a Daylight Saving donut of sorts suspended one hour in the future for half the year.
9. IT STARTS AT 2 A.M. FOR A REASON.
Daylight Saving Time doesn’t begin at the stroke of midnight like you might expect it to. Rather, the time change is delayed until most people (hopefully) aren’t awake to notice it. By waiting until two in the morning to give or take an hour, the idea is that most workers with early shifts will still be in bed and most bars and restaurants will already be closed.
10. THE CANDY INDUSTRY LOBBIED FOR AN EXTENSION.
Until recently, losing an hour of daylight in the fall presented a problem for the candy industry. That’s because Daylight Saving Time traditionally ended on the last Sunday in October, a.k.a. before Halloween night. Intense lobbying to push back the date went on for decades. According to one report, candy lobbyists even went so far as to place tiny candy pumpkins on the seats of everyone in the senate in 1986. A law extending DST into November finally went into effect in 2007.
Since 1986, the Gold American Eagle has captivated the world with its value, history, and beauty. It is the most popular coin produced by the United States and is highly coveted, especially when a new coin is produced at the start of each year.
The coin is minted at the West Point Mint in West Point, New York and is available in 1/10 of an ounce, 1/4 of an ounce, 1/2 of an ounce, and 1 ounce denominations. Each weight carries a face value of $5, $10, $25, and $50 respectively. The $50, 1 oz Gold American Eagle – which actually weighs 1.0909 ounces – is the most popular coin among collectors and investors.
The U.S. government guarantees that each coin includes the amount of actual gold weight, in Troy ounces, on the back of the coin. Because of this, every American Eagle coin is recognized as legal tender. It’s the coin’s intrinsic value, which will likely always be higher than its face value, that keeps people coming back year after year.
The History of the Gold American Eagle
Ronald Reagan signed the Gold Bullion Coin Act into law
The original Gold American Eagle coin dates back to 1792. Its original value was $10, but was also available as a Quarter Eagle, Half Eagle, and Double Eagle, each valued at $2.50, $5, and $20. Much like today, the original Gold American Eagles were minted in British standard crown gold, or 22-karat gold. The rest of the coin was made of copper and silver.
The Gold American Eagle was discontinued in 1933, as the result of a decree by Franklin D. Roosevelt, to prevent banks from going bankrupt during the early stages of the Great Depression. The United States has since gone off of the Gold Standard, so gold coins went out of fashion during the 20th Century.
In 1985, Ronald Reagan signed the Gold Bullion Coin Act into law, forever changing the precious metals market. Congress had been petitioning for the return of a gold American coin since 1981, so with the passing of the act, the Gold American Eagle was the favorite for mint production. The law allowed the Gold American Eagle coin to quickly soar in popularity for investors and collectors alike.
The Gold and Silver American Eagle coins were produced and available to the public in 1986. Since it was introduced, the coin has been the most widely traded coin in the United States. Another reason for its popularity is due to a provision of the law that required the coin to be mined from gold found in the United States, to make it a truly American coin.
The Coin’s Design
Gold American Eagle Coin
Since the Gold American Eagle became available to the public, people have have been captivated by its beautiful designs. The Gold American Eagle’s design is unique because it combines the old history from the early 20th century and its new beginning in the late 20th century. You can see this combination on the obverse and reverse of the coin.
The design of the obverse of the coin is a modified version of American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ classic design from his $20 coin. Originally commissioned by Theodore Roosevelt, Saint-Gaudens’ design is still coveted as one of the most beautiful designs of any coin ever produced by the U.S. Mint. Saint-Gaudens’ coin was minted from 1907-1933. The design features a stunning scene of Lady Liberty holding a torch in her right hand and an olive branch in her left hand, walking towards the edge of the coin.
The reverse of the Gold American Eagle was designed by modern-day American sculptor Miley Tucker-Frost. The design depicts the image of a male eagle holding an olive branch flying right above a female eagle in a nest with her hatchlings.
The Gold American Eagle’s design has also changed over the years of its production. The coins minted between 1986 and 1991 are inscribed with Roman numerals and from 1992 until the present, the have Arabic numerals for dating the coins. The numerals are located on the obverse of the coin.
The Value of the Gold American Eagle
American Gold Eagle Coin Stack
The Gold American Eagle is a low-cost, high-value coin that’s perfect for any investor or collector. Whether you are looking to get into the precious metals market for the first time or you are a long-time lover of gold bullion, the Gold American Eagle has a place in your portfolio or coin collection.
The bullion coin is made from 22-karat gold, meaning that 91.67% of the coin is pure gold. The remaining percentage is made up of silver and copper. Because the coin contains a lower percentage of gold, it is much more durable and long lasting than its counterparts which bear 99.999% gold. This means that your investment will last and is less prone to wear over a long period of time.
Some of the sizes of the coin may have a value to collectors in the future based on their relative scarcity in the market. A strong after-market has already developed among investor and collectors looking to complete their sets going back to 1986. Some denominations that are particularly scarce are particularly scarce are the half and quarter-ounce Gold American Eagles from the early 1990s that had low mintage.
Because of the success of the Gold and Silver American Eagle coins, the coin is available in two more precious metals. In 1997, the American Eagle coin became available in platinum and in 2017, the coin became available in palladium.