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The Continental Dollar: Initial Design, Ideal Performance, and the Credibility of Congressional Commitment

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  • Farley Grubb

Abstract

An alternative history of the Continental dollar is constructed from original sources and tested against evidence on prices and exchange rates. The Continental dollar was a zero-interest bearer bond, not a pure fiat currency. The public was promised redemption at face value in specie at fixed future dates. When time-discounting (rational bond pricing) is separated from depreciation, little depreciation occurred before 1779. In 1779, and again in 1780, Congress passed ex post facto laws altering Continental-dollar maturity dates. Because these new dates were not fiscally feasible, Congress' commitment to the Continental dollar lost credibility. Depreciation and collapse followed shortly thereafter.

Suggested Citation

  • Farley Grubb, 2011. "The Continental Dollar: Initial Design, Ideal Performance, and the Credibility of Congressional Commitment," NBER Working Papers 17276, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17276
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alvin Rabushka, 2008. "Introduction to Taxation in Colonial America," Introductory Chapters,in: Taxation in Colonial America Princeton University Press.
    2. Calomiris, Charles W., 1988. "Institutional Failure, Monetary Scarcity, and the Depreciation of the Continental," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 48(01), pages 47-68, March.
    3. Van Hove, Leo, 2001. "Optimal Denominations for Coins and Bank Notes: In Defense of the Principle of Least Effort," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 33(4), pages 1015-1021, November.
    4. Grubb, Farley, 2008. "The Continental Dollar: How Much Was Really Issued?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(01), pages 283-291, March.
    5. Telser, L. G., 1995. "Optimal denominations for coins and currency," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 49(4), pages 425-427, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Farley Grubb, 2012. "Is Paper Money just Paper Money/ Experimentation and Local Variation in the Fiat Paper Monies Issued by the Colonial Government of British North America, 1690-1775: Part I," Working Papers 12-07, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.
    2. Farley Grubb, 2012. "Is Paper Money Just Paper Money? Experimentation and Variation in the Paper Monies Issued by the American Colonies from 1690 to 1775," NBER Working Papers 17997, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Farley Grubb, 2015. "Common Currency versus Currency Union: The U.S. Continental Dollar and Denominational Structure, 1775-1776," NBER Working Papers 21728, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Farley Grubb, 2015. "Common Currency versus Currency Union: The U.S. Continental Dollar and Denominational Structure, 1775-1779," Working Papers 15-10, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E42 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Monetary Sytsems; Standards; Regimes; Government and the Monetary System
    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • G18 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H56 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - National Security and War
    • H6 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt
    • H71 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • N11 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N21 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N41 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913

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