Received Ph.D. from University of Deleware (2019). Curator at the American Numismatic Society. He holds the Resolute Americana Chair of American Numismatics.
profile: C4N, Summer 2020.
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[Abstract] From the earliest days of the British-American colonies, up though early 1857, a variety of foreign coinage circulated. At various times, coins from Spanish-America, Great Britain, France, and Brazil held legal tender status and formed a majority of the hard-money supply in the United States. Most of these coins did not conform to the predominant unit of account (i.e. “dollars” or “pounds”) and forced American consumers and merchants to navigate this system through a variety of ingenious, though sometimes confounding methods: from abstract mathematical formulas to prolonged usage of British monetary terminologies. Furthermore, the different types of the foreign pieces had a range in qualitative factors that allowed for easy manufacture and circulation of counterfeit coins. Money scales—the devices used to detect such pieces—proved unfit for desired effect. Despite these factors and hindrances, the coins freely circulated due to the familiarity that several generations of Americans had with them. New types of foreign coins introduced throughout the 1840s and 1850s, however, proved unable to circulate due to an overall lack of familiarity with the coins.
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