That Jingle May Not Entirely Be From Bells

by Curt Kovener

With the holiday shopping season officially underway and retailers hoping shoppers are in a mood to buy, why don’t we look at money. Not just look at and long for money, but some of the history and little known facts about currency over the centuries.
•Paper money is not a recent invention. It originated in China in the year 910 and amazed Marco Polo when he visited three centuries later. He also noted that the emperor, Kublai Khan, seemed to be printing an awful lot of the paper currency which ultimately wrecked the economy. Due to skyrocketing inflation caused by churning out so much money, paper bills had to be abolished in China in the 15th century.
•By that history the U.S. paper currency is relatively new. The expense of the U.S. Civil War inspired the government to introduce paper “greenbacks” in July 1861.
•So is it really paper money? The paper used for U.S. bills isn’t made from trees. Rather, it contains 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen.
•All the U.S. coins and bills in general circulation today have a total worth of about $829 billion. Two-thirds of that cash is held overseas.
•In 1949 Frank X. McNamara took friends to dinner in New York City but forgot to bring his cash. He vowed never again to be so embarrassed and so created the Diners Club Card, the first credit card. And it was literally a card. The first Diners Club Cards were initially made of cardboard. It listed the 14 participating restaurants on the back and had an annual fee of $3.
•The invention of money also made theft a lot easier. Temples became the first banks because they were sturdy, frequently visited, and intimidating to would-be thieves.
•But did they offer subprime mortgages? By 1750 B.C., Babylonian temple priests had branched out into issuing loans to locals.
•And if you like to complain about taxes, you aren’t the first. You can take solace in knowing that the ritual dates back almost 5,000 years to a time when Egyptians started paying taxes in goods and labor.
•While The Peoples Bank is a long time bank serving Crothersville area customers, it isn’t all that old. Founded in Italy as a pawnshop in 1472, the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena is the world’s oldest surviving bank.
•Scottish inventor John Shepherd-Barron built the world’s first true ATM for a Barclay’s Bank in North London in 1967. The machine was based on the concept of a chocolate bar dispenser.
•There is a reason cash is called filthy lucre. In a study last year, researchers found more cocaine residue on U.S. bills than on any other currency. (Is that why some people think money smells so sweet?) Also found on money is found staphylococcus bacteria and fecal matter.
And as you absorb the information in the preceding paragraph ponder, “What’s in your wallet?”