Tag: Money

The Real Thanksgiving?

Counterfeit $10This suite101 page got me thinking about the American Thanksgiving – and its follow up pseudo-event, Black Friday – and how they’re an interesting combination of history and materialism.

Massachussetts authorized the first mint in British North America in 1652. The mint created silver coins. Some were stamped with NE for “New England” or had images of trees.

Of course, 1652 seems a little late in the game to be utilizing legal tender, so what did people do before that?

It wasn’t all just British coinage:

Wampum in Rhode Island was made from white whelk shells and purple quahog shells. The quahog shells were worth twice as much as the whelk shells in the Indian economy.

With gold and silver coins in short supply, the colonist agreed to accept the wampum as legal tender.

I love the romantic notion of using a naturally occurring resource as legal tender, but, to return to the first American mint as an example, ne’er-do-wells will often crop up.

[The silver coins] also became the first coins counterfeited in America. John duPlessis was convicted of counterfeiting these coins in 1674.

How bad was it?

In 1682, William Penn complained that he could not bring his ‘holy experiment’ in Pennsylvania to fruition when half the coinage in the colony was phony.

Yikes – so, maybe we should all head back to the naturalistic idea of trading shells?

It wasn’t long before the Indians realized that here was an opportunity to take advantage of the newcomers. They hoarded the valuable quahog shells for themselves, dyed the cheaper white shells a dark purplish black, then passed them off as the real thing to undiscerning Europeans.

If there’s a lesson here, I think it has something to do with high-end laser printers.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends!


In an attempt to circumvent the corruption that has long kept Afghanistan in the shape everyone knows and invades, NATO has set up a novel system for paying the Afghani soldiers they are training.

(Historically, the company leaders would be entrusted with a lump sum to be distributed to individual soldiers – this turned out to be a great system for making rich company leaders.)

The International Telecommunication Union says 72 percent of Afghanistan’s population is now covered by a cell phone signal. By contrast, fewer than one person in a hundred has a fixed telephone line.

– An otherwise unrelated The Cutting Edge News article from last year

Cellphones are apparently as ubiquitous in Afghanistan as anywhere else, a fact that is now being exploited. A text message with a unique code is sent to Afghan troops, who can then take the code to a local cellphone chain store and exchange it for cash. NATO reimburses the chain stores, and the circle of life is complete.

Afghani Cell Dealer, Image from The Cutting Edge News

More info is available at Associated Content, or at your local recruiting station.