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Movie Props or Props to Economy?
By Patrick A. Heller
October 02, 2012

The time could be coming again where the actions of the U.S. government may drive down the value of the U.S. dollar to such an extent that people could become afraid to accept U.S. government coins and paper money.

Sound like a movie plot? It is (more on this later). I write “again” because it has happened before. It is very real American history.

There is no guarantee that it will never happen again.

Let’s look back at our past.

The costs of the U.S. Civil War, 1861-1865, imposed enormous strains on federal government finances. As part of the effort to fund the war effort, the U.S. government began to issue paper money in 1861 called Demand Notes, which were specifically not redeemable at the Treasury for gold or silver.

Because of the uncertainty of the war’s outcome, the issue of unbacked paper money scared people that the nation might have a repeat of the debacle of Continental Currency issued by the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War.

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The Congress authorized the issue of the currency that promised it was redeemable for Spanish Milled Dollars (8 reales), or other precious metals with the full knowledge that the treasury of the Continental Congress had no gold or silver to fulfill the promises. Continental Currency quickly became virtually worthless. Under the U.S. Constitution, Continental Currency was redeemed for 1 percent of face value, a portion of which was paid upon surrender of the notes and a portion paid with bonds that were redeemed in the early 1800s.

Naturally, citizens during the Civil War quickly pulled out of circulation and hoarded all the gold and silver coins that they could afford, hoping to avoid the suffering experienced by those who held onto Continental Currency.

Copper-nickel cents were the next in line to be hoarded during the Civil War.

To help cure the shortage of circulating coinage, the private sector came to the rescue.

Manufacturers sold kegs of 5,000 copper tokens of slightly larger diameter than U.S. cents and about two-thirds the weight. There are thousands of different versions. Designs were roughly about half of a patriotic theme supporting the Union government, while the rest served as advertisements for the merchants who bought these tokens from the fabricators.

Scovill Manufacturing, a company that for decades had made buttons for American military uniforms, sold these 5,000-token kegs for $39. Thus merchants could afford to purchase them and offer them as change by promising to take them back later at a value of one cent apiece. Not only did the private sector reduce the scarcity of circulating coinage, it was able to do so at a profit.

Not one of these tokens listed a denomination or tried to fool people into thinking they were U.S. Mint coinage. In fact, some issues specifically stated, “Not One Cent.”

Should a need for alternative money once again come to pass, what could the private sector do to provide it? I submit that the existing non-governmental manufacturers of precious metals bars and rounds would be in a prime position to expand their output to help fill the void left by the rejection of U.S. government coins and paper money.

To avoid running afoul of existing government counterfeiting laws, such products should avoid any reference to the “dollar” denomination. Instead, those that are most successful will most likely identify their content and purity right on the face of these gold and silver “tokens.” To help gain public acceptance, such issues will likely identify the manufacturers or distributors.

A motion picture titled “Alongside Night” is in current production. I am an investor in this movie. It is currently scheduled for release in July 2013. The setting of the movie is five years into the future, at a time when the U.S. government is teetering on the edge of collapse. The theme of the movie simply extrapolates from the current course of U.S. government actions and the economy to a plausible future scenario.

In the movie, alternative global currencies have appeared. A part of the story line involves a money belt worn by the main character that conceals a hoard of privately struck gold coins. Because of my involvement in the film, in which I am credited as one of the Executive Producers, the gold tokens advertise my company’s website, a modern day equivalent to how Civil War-era merchants advertised their businesses on copper tokens.

For your enjoyment, here is a picture of some of the actual pieces that will be used in “Alongside Night.” While I have no plans to go into the business of creating private media of exchange, perhaps this movie may inspire other entrepreneurs to take advantage of an opportunity that may come sooner than five years from now.

These movie props were made from half-ounce pure gold $10 First Spouse coins, so they are .999 fine. The diameter is about the same as a Maple Leaf, but they are a bit thinner. They were made one at a time, so each one has a slightly different weight.

The reverses are blank as they will not be seen in the film. However, I have the rights to produce tokens of the movie. They will probably be 1/4 ounce pure gold or 1/4 pure silver. For these souvenirs, the obverse will be similar to the movie pieces although the gold would say 1/4 Gold Liberty (and be full weight) and the silver would say 1/4 Silver Liberty (and be full weight). The opposite side will be the logo for the movie.

The movie is currently scheduled for release in July 2013, but release dates can and do change. The best place to go for the latest information on the cast and crew, the story line, the current scheduled release date and other information is http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1667061/fullcredits#cast.



Patrick A. Heller is the American Numismatic Association 2012 Harry Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award winner. He owns Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes “Liberty’s Outlook,” a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at http://www.libertycoinservice.com. Other commentaries are available at Coin Week (http://www.coinweek.com and http://www.coininfo.com). He also writes a bi-monthly column on collectibles for The Greater Lansing Business Monthly (http://www.lansingbusinessmonthly.com/articles/department-columns).His radio show “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at http://www.1320wils.com.



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Comments
On October 3, 2012 joe said
    So you have a stake in a movie about the possible dive in the US dollar.  Thanks for being up front but you're trying to sell the movie and that's a dive.

    We would not have the huge debit that we have if the govt did not just enter in to conflicts with out the support by vote of the people except for a short period od of say 45 days.  We designed weapons so that we could just lite the ground up and i don't mean atom.  

    We need to stop supporting governments that are not demarcrecys as we do on a quite regular basis and we ned to stop supporting governments that sponsor religious education and us religious laws to make their laws out of.  I know we do it here and it is expressly prohibited but no one has the guts to say no more.

    So we stop getting into conflicts, we make the belligerent / losing party pay our cots but not in  a way that it kills their future economy but does apply some pressure, we stop support for any government that lives by or financially supports religious education and we don't supply arms to other countries for any reason we supply food and medicines.

    I almost forgot we pay our farmers to not grow a crop or live stock animal and we get nothing for it except saving them, how about we go back to the past practice and make them grow the product and then we take it and hand it out instead of food stamps / debit cards.

    If we started to do the smart things then our dollar would remain strong and we would be strong.  Jobs and products here in America and under trade we don't import any more that we export to any contry except by a small margin of 10% difference which must be recovered the following year.

    Energy prices are manipulated by gamblers (they like to call themselves investors) they should have the price frozen and agreed to all over the vast majorities of the major countries.  Do you really believe if we use our in ground energy supplies that our own manufactures would sell it to us any cheaper than they could get on the world market?  If you believe that then your article is about living on invented fear rather than doing the right and responsible things.

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