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Forever Stamps, Forever Currency?
June 14, 2011

I am a fan of the post office’s forever stamps. I can buy them today for 44 cents each and whatever the cost of first class postage in the future, they will be good at that rate.

What about forever paper money? Pick a federal service for the $1 Federal Reserve Note and say it will always be good for it.

That would be a nice hedge against inflation and convenient, too.

Too strange, you say?

Could be, but in the heyday of precious metal money, the United States issued various kinds of paper money with various kinds of redeemability clauses. Somehow the public was able to sort through them.

The federal government already issues bonds that adjust for inflation over time.

Give the new issue the familiar design but with a different color seal.

I had great fun as a kid getting Blue Seal Silver Certificates, Red Seal United States Notes and Green Seal Federal Reserve Notes. Most people didn’t realize that there were different forms of paper money until the Silver Certificate redemption fever struck in late 1967 and lasted until the silver window closed June 24, 1968.

Would it be practical?

Good question.

The Red Seals had their roots in the Civil War. It was then that the Union government, which was short of gold, basically threw everything against the wall to see what stuck. It was a time of crisis, inflation and financial improvisation.

It worked.

The Treasury succeeded in its goal of funding the Civil War and keeping the rest of government functioning.

Can a federal government, short of gold, come up with a latter-day equivalent of its Civil War success?

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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