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A model of bimetallism

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  • Francois R. Velde
  • Warren E. Weber

Abstract

Bimetallism has been the subject of considerable debate: Was it a viable monetary system? Was it a desirable system? In our model, the (exogenous and stochastic) amount of each metal can be split between monetary uses to satisfy a cash-in-advance constraint, and nonmonetary uses in which the stock of uncoined metal yields utility. The ratio of the monies in the cash-in-advance constraint is endogenous. Bimetallism is feasible: we find a continuum of steady states (in the certainty case) indexed by the constant exchange rate of the monies; we also prove existence for a range of fixed exchange rates in the stochastic version. Bimetallism does not appear desirable on a welfare basis: among steady states, we prove that welfare under monometallism is higher than under any bimetallic equilibrium. We compute welfare and the variance of the price level under a variety of regimes (bimetallism, monometallism with and without trade money) and find that bimetallism can significantly stabilize the price level, depending on the covariance between the shocks to the supplies of metals.

Suggested Citation

  • Francois R. Velde & Warren E. Weber, 1998. "A model of bimetallism," Working Papers 588, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmwp:588
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    8. Fernholz, Ricardo T. & Mitchener, Kris James & Weidenmier, Marc, 2017. "Pulling up the tarnished anchor: The end of silver as a global unit of account," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 209-228.
    9. Redish, Angela & Weber, Warren E., 2011. "Coin Sizes And Payments In Commodity Money Systems," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(S1), pages 62-82, April.
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    11. George J. Hall & Thomas J. Sargent, 2015. "A History of U.S. Debt Limits," NBER Working Papers 21799, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Jin, Gu & Zhu, Tao, 2019. "Debasements and Small Coins: An Untold Story of Commodity Money," MPRA Paper 93057, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Andre Varella Mollick, 2016. "Adoption of the Gold Standard and Real Exchange Rates in the Core and Periphery, 1870–1913," International Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 19(1), pages 89-107, April.
    14. Jesús Fernández-Villaverde & Daniel R. Sanches, 2024. "Price-Level Determination Under the Gold Standard," Working Papers 24-06, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    15. Antoine Martin, 2002. "Reconciling Bagehot with the Fed's response to Sept. 11," Research Working Paper RWP 02-10, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
    16. Diebolt, Claude & Parent, Antoine, 2008. "Bimetallism: The "rules of the game"," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 288-302, July.
    17. Bojanic, Antonio N., 2011. "Final Years of the Silver Standard in Mexico: Evidence of Purchasing Power Parity with The United States," MPRA Paper 45535, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 27 Jul 2011.
    18. Elisa Newby, 2007. "Macroeconomic Implications of Gold Reserve Policy of the Bank of England during the Eighteenth Century," CDMA Working Paper Series 200708, Centre for Dynamic Macroeconomic Analysis.
    19. Nuno Palma, 2019. "American Precious Metals and their Consequences for Early Modern Europe," Working Papers 0174, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    20. Peter Kugler, 2011. "Financial Market Integration in Late Medieval Europe: Results from a Threshold Error Correction Model for the Rhinegulden and Basle Pound 1365-1429," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 147(III), pages 337-352, September.
    21. Kahn, Charles M. & Roberds, William, 2009. "Why pay? An introduction to payments economics," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 1-23, January.
    22. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, 2021. "Bitcoin, Currencies, and Fragility," Papers 2106.14204, arXiv.org, revised Jul 2021.
    23. James Vladimir Torres, 2019. "Bullion and Monetary Flows in the Northern Andes: New Evidence and Insights, 1780-1800," Tiempo y Economía, Universidad de Bogotá Jorge Tadeo Lozano, vol. 6(1), pages 13-45, February.
    24. Nogues-Marco, Pilar & Esteves, Rui, 2019. "Monetary Systems and the Global Balance-of-Payments Adjustment in the Pre-Gold Standard Period, 1700-1870," CEPR Discussion Papers 13652, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    25. Nuno Palma, 2019. "The Real Effects of Monetary Expansions: Evidence from a Large-Scale Historical Natural Experiment," Economics Discussion Paper Series 1904, Economics, The University of Manchester, revised Aug 2021.

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    Keywords

    Bimetallism; Gold;

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