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Explaining the demand for free bank notes


  • Rolnick, Arthur J.
  • Weber, Warren E.


This paper explains why the risky notes of banks established during the Free Banking Era (1837–63) were demanded even when relatively safe specie (gold and silver coin) was an alternative. Free bank notes were demanded because they were priced to reflect the expected value of their backing. The empirical evidence supports this explanation. Specifically, in New York, Wisconsin, and Indiana the expected value of backing was sufficient for free bank notes to circulate at par, which they did. In Minnesota the backing for notes was very poor: they exchanged well below par, being treated as small-denomination securities.
(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)
(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

Suggested Citation

  • Rolnick, Arthur J. & Weber, Warren E., 1988. "Explaining the demand for free bank notes," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 47-71, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:moneco:v:21:y:1988:i:1:p:47-71

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. King, Robert G., 1983. "On the economics of private money," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 127-158.
    2. Rolnick, Arthur J & Weber, Warren E, 1983. "New Evidence on the Free Banking Era," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(5), pages 1080-1091, December.
    3. Rockoff, Hugh, 1974. "The Free Banking Era: A Reexamination," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 6(2), pages 141-167, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Highfield, Richard A. & O'Hara, Maureen & Smith, Bruce, 1996. "Do open market operations matter? Theory and evidence from the Second Bank of the United States," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 20(1-3), pages 479-519.
    2. David C. Mills, Jr, 2008. "Imperfect Monitoring And The Discounting Of Inside Money," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 49(3), pages 737-754, August.
    3. Bruce D. Smith & Warren E. Weber, 1999. "Private money creation and the Suffolk Banking System," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, pages 624-667.
    4. Gary Gorton, 1993. "Reputation Formation in Early Bank Debt Markets," NBER Working Papers 4400, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Charles M. Kahn & William Roberds, 1999. "Demandable debt as a means of payment: banknotes versus checks," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, pages 500-530.
    6. Horwitz Steven & Bodenhorn Howard, 1994. "A Property Rights Approach to Free Banking," Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines, De Gruyter, vol. 5(4), pages 1-16, December.
    7. Gorton, Gary, 1999. "Pricing free bank notes," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 33-64, August.
    8. Tyler Cowen & Randall Kroszner, 1990. "Mutual Fund Banking: A Market Approach," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 10(1), pages 223-237, Spring/Su.
    9. Shambaugh, Jay C., 2006. "An experiment with multiple currencies: the American monetary system from 1838-60," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 43(4), pages 609-645, October.
    10. Sujit Chakravorti & Victor Lubasi, 2006. "Payment instrument choice: the case of prepaid cards," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q II, pages 29-43.

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