This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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I have seen many letters and articles concerning “fiat” money. I have even seen some letters asking for the “fiat” debate to go away.
I too, have noticed the obsession with gold and silver due to the security they represent. I always felt that our money should be backed by precious metals (at least something the world recognizes), but it has been brought to light due to the state of our economy.
Nobody disagrees that our money is only as valuable as we permit, but there are those who have chosen to make a statement with something more than writing letters. The National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve and the Internal Revenue Code, commonly referred to as NORFED, made a real statement in 1998 with the introduction of silver “coins” and “currency” that could be exchanged one-for-one with Federal Reserve Notes and used as barter for goods and services.
The “coins” are silver rounds (later gold and copper were introduced) and the “currency” is actually a warehouse receipt for gold and silver. The firm and idea was formed by Bernard von NotHaus, the co-founder of the Royal Hawaiian Mint Company. The coins and notes were commonly called Liberty Dollars. Of course, the coins were actually silver and the notes very similar to our Silver Certificates of old being backed by silver in a warehouse.
Frustrated with the fact that our money was fiat money, this movement began. Since its inception, it has been challenged in our courts. Von NotHaus even sued the U.S. Mint. I guess the main reason for this movement was to create awareness of our useless money. Many businesses would accept the Liberty Dollar as barter for goods and services. In May 2009, von NotHaus and others were charged with federal crimes in connection with the Liberty Dollar and, on July 31, 2009, von NotHaus announced that he had closed the Liberty Dollar operation, pending resolution of the criminal charges. All of this very interesting history can be found on the Internet, Wikipedia being most noteworthy.
I only bring this little bit of history to readers’ attention for two reasons. No. 1 to let numismatists know there are many out there who have the same fears and concerns about our money and our economy. I find the challenges von NotHaus has made very interesting and make for great debate in this country. Fiat money is alive and kicking.
The second reason is that this movement has created some very interesting collectible materials. They minted many denominations at different silver value levels for different years. The designs are quite attractive as well. It is a simple Lady Liberty head designed obverse with a liberty torch design reverse. These are very simple and attractive designs. They even produced 1 ounce copper coins as well. All with a proof-like finish. Where are you going to find full 1 ounce copper coins? Some are quite unique with Lakota Indians and a buffalo reverse and I have even seen a Ron Paul design and a Second Amendment design. As for the notes, they remind me a little of our MPC in regards to size. Nice paper with the hologram and Lady Liberty in many different denominations payable in silver or gold.
So, in addition to some interesting numismatic material for collectors, you end up with hard-to-find and scarce items. Check out the buzz on these items on eBay and other sites. They are going for spot plus a nice premium on some items. I wonder if the government will try to make these Liberty Dollars illegal to use or own. Can they do that? That’s the next debate!
This Viewpoint was written by Will Gragg, a hobbyist from Irmo, S.C.
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