What a surprise I found in the financial news yesterday.
A writer was advocating printing $500 bills again.
Interesting, wouldn’t you say?
The $500 Federal Reserve Note was last printed in 1946. It was withdrawn from circulation in 1969.
It isn’t likely to come back no matter what financial writers or numismatic writers scribble.
But the column made a strong case for cash. Like hobby writers Pat Heller and me before him, the case for cash rests on what is done in an economy that has no electricity.
Credit cards, debit cards, bitcoin are all useless without the backing of a huge financial infrastructure powered by electricity.
Cash has its limitations, too.
You can be in the middle of a disaster with three or four months’ worth of expenses in the form of $500 bills; then what?
Who will be able to make change?
Silver enthusiasts advocate holding silver dimes to make day-to-day purchases.
Such a coin is compact and worth $1.20 or so.
It should be ideal.
However, how many people will actually recognize it as having a value greater than a dime?
Back in the 1960s, average people had to look at the edge of the new clad dimes with their bright copper red color to tell the difference between them and silver.
Visually, that is an equivalent of a fire alarm.
What are stressed people who have never used silver before going to do in the middle of a disaster?
Imagine standing in a long line waiting to get water and food, and the person in the convenience store says, “It’s a dime. Now where’s the rest of my money?"
These limitations do not eliminate the benefit of cash, but they do moderate them.
I am sure $1s, $5s, $10s and $20s are carrying the load in Puerto Rico presently.
Hungry people are not going to be willing to have a discussion of the advantages of hard money or holding cash in the form of $500 bills.
Cell phones are being used in growing numbers to transfer funds – much more so outside the United States than in.
Many people in a bad situation are likely to have retained their phones.
Telephone payments can give cash a run for its money.
It is nice to read someone in the financial media call for bringing back the $500 bill.
However, as nice as it is to be nostalgic, it is not likely to be part of the future.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017 . He is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."
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