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Money Mysteries: Or why is there an eyeball on the dollar bill?

Business & Economics Department, Central Library,
Money Mysteries

Who’s the guy on the old $10,000 note (Salmon Chase, note no longer printed)?  Is America on the gold standard (NO, not since June 1933)?  What’s the origin of the term “greenback” (a U.S. legal-tender note, printed in green on the back since the Civil War)?  The Central Library’s Business and Economics Department gets questions about paper money on a fairly regular basis.  Most of these questions focus on dollar bill symbols or where to send mutilated currency, but others venture into daunting areas of bitcoins and the concept of fiat.  One of the odder money mysteries is why does the Business Department have material on paper currency but not coins?  Curiously, coins are “works of art” or sculpture so if you want to find the value of your Barber Dime (1892-1916), the Art, Music & Recreation Department at the Central Library can help you find the answer.  Delve deeper into the symbols on the dollar bill or the challenges of digital money with the LAPL and government resources listed below.


History of Money

From ancient cowrie shells to the 13th Century Chinese chao to today’s Apple Pay, money has steadily evolved through the millennia.  If you’re curious about this evolution from simple barter to virtual exchanges, here are a few books to get you started.

·         All the money in the world : the art and history of paper money and coins from antiquity to the 21st century.  Mudd, Douglas.  332.49 M943            

·         Coined : the rich life of money and how its history has shaped us.  Sehgal, Kabir.  332.15 S456

·         The history of money : from sandstone to cyberspace.  Weatherford, J. McIver.  332.49 W362

·         Money : everything you never knew about your favorite thing to covet, save & spend.  Choron, Sandra.  332.4 C551

·         Money : a history.  Catherine Eagleton and Jonathan Williams.  332.49 M7425 2007

·         Money : the unauthorized biography.  Martin, Felix.  332.49 M379

·         History of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing


Currency Symbols

There’s abundant and endless fascination with “secret” encrypted codes and symbols embedded in U.S. currency notes, enough to fill many books, blogs and videorecordings.  Excluding extraterrestrial or supernatural theories, the following websites and books explain the “mysteries” of currency notes.

·         Decoding the past. [videorecording] / Secrets of the dollar bill.  DVD 332.53 D2965

·         Money, money, money : the meaning of the art and symbols on United States paper currency.  Parker, Nancy Winslow.  x332 P242 (juvenile book)

·         The secret symbols of the dollar bill.  Ovason, David.  332.53 O96

·         Symbols on American Money.  Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

·         U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Department of the Treasury FAQs


Paper Money

Paper money price guides provide updated pricing information (in US dollars) for historic and modern U.S. and world paper money, with values in several grades and illustrations or full color images.  FYI, the Business and Economics Department does not provide paper money values over the phone because we’re not valuation experts and we can’t see what you’re looking at.

·         The Official Blackbook price guide of United States paper money.  332.53 O1325       

·         Paper money of the United States : a complete illustrated guide with valuations.  Friedberg, Robert.  332.53 F899

·         Standard catalog of U.S. paper money.  332.53 S7855-1

·         Standard catalog of world paper money. Vol. 3, Modern issues.  332.53 P7855-3

·         Standard catalog of world paper money. Vol. 1, Specialized issues.  332.53 P7855

·         Standard catalog of world paper money. Vol. 2, General issues.  332.53 P7855-1

·         Standard guide to small-size U.S. paper money [electronic resource].  Schwartz, John.  e-Book


Bitcoins and Electronic Currency

Some curious facts about digital money according to the Digital Currency Wiki are 1, a digital currency is one that exists only as computer (binary) code and 2, a crypto currency is one that is based upon cryptography.  Bitcoin is both.  To better understand future currency trends, check out these books.

·         The age of cryptocurrency : How Bitcoin and digital money are challenging the global economic order.   Vigna, Paul.  332.4 V678 and e-Book

·         Bitcoin and the future of money.  Pagliery, Jose.  332.4 P138

·         Bitcoin for the befuddled.  Barski, Conrad.  332.1018 B282

·         Mastering bitcoin [electronic resource].  Antonopoulos, Anas M.  e-Book