In 1796, the US issued its first quarter dollar.
On the obverse, it displayed the image of Lady Liberty, and above the image (in case there was any doubt about the message), the word “LIBERTY” was prominently displayed. The coin was minted from silver (90%) and copper (10%).
Over the years, the design of the US quarter changed repeatedly. Then, in 1932, a new quarter (image #1, above) was issued that featured the image of American Founding Father George Washington. As before, the word “LIBERTY” appeared above his image—a continuing reminder of the primary principle upon which the US was founded. And as before, the coin was minted from silver (90%) and copper (10%).
So far, so good.
The quarter remained unchanged until 1965. The new quarter (image #2) was the same in every way, except that it contained no silver whatsoever. It now contained only copper and nickel. (At today’s metals prices, the intrinsic value of the quarter dropped suddenly to 1% of its previous value.)
Conceptually, the American people should have been outraged, as they had effectively lost the ability to hold real, redeemable wealth. The coin they would hold in future would not have the value of silver; it would be a mere token. The new coin represented no more than a “promise of value” on the part of the US government.
Written by Jeff Thomas
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