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Episode 421: The Birth Of The Dollar Bill

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Episode 421: The Birth Of The Dollar Bill

Currency

Episode 421: The Birth Of The Dollar Bill

Episode 421: The Birth Of The Dollar Bill

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/166747693/166765224" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Museum of the City of New York
Two-dollar note from a New York bank
Museum of the City of New York

Before the Civil War, there were 8,000 different kinds of money in the United States.

Banks printed their own paper money. And, unlike today, a $1 bill wasn't always worth $1. Sometimes people took the bills at face value. Sometimes they accepted them at a discount (a $1 bill might only be worth 90 cents, say.) Sometimes people rejected certain bills altogether.

On today's show, we figure out how this world worked. And explain how the Civil War — and the Union's need for money — changed everything.

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