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The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 8, February 24, 2008, Article 6

NEW BOOK: BIOGRAPHY OF THE DOLLAR BY CRAIG KARMIN

[Tom Fort forwarded this review of a new book from The
Economist.  Written by Craig Karmin, the book is "Biography
of the Dollar: How the Mighty Buck Conquered the World and
Why It's Under Siege."  The review opens with an anecdote
about the BEP's Mutilated Currency Division.  -Editor]

A man's angry wife once ran $30,000 of his life savings
though a paper shredder. Fortunately the nest-egg was in
dollars and help was at hand in a little-known corner of
America's federal bureaucracy. Since 1862 the Mutilated
Currency Division of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing
has pieced together partially destroyed American currency.
So long as 51% of a bill remains and can be proved genuine,
Uncle Sam will refund its full value.

With magnifying glasses, tweezers, scalpels and many gallons
of disinfectant, the mutilated-currency specialists can spend
up to two years analysing a single bill. "We don't care if
it was in a fire, buried underground or water-damaged," says
one. "Maybe your dog ate it. Came out the other end. Clean it
up a bit. We'll take care of it." In 2006 the currency
forensics handled about 20,000 cases and sent out cheques
worth $66m.

This tale is one of the many fascinating titbits that
Craig Karmin, a reporter for the WALL STREET JOURNAL,
has compiled in his "biography" of the dollar, a book that
tells the story of America's national currency. The approach
is partly historical. Mr Karmin describes the dollar's wild
youth. In the era of free banking between 1837 and 1863, for
instance, more than 700 banks could issue their own notes,
and as many as one-third of all bills were fake. He documents
the greenback's gradual rise as an international currency
after the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913, and its
global dominance after the second world war.

It is a series of lively stories, full of first-hand reporting,
deftly woven together. You meet the hedge-fund honcho whose
firm is one of the world's biggest currency-trading specialists;
the Ecuadorean hotelier who had to change everything after his
country dollarised; the president of an online bank that offers
Americans foreign-currency accounts. Mr Karmin has not written
an important book about the dollar but he has written a jolly
entertaining one.

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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