Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 76.djvu/291

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287
INTERNATIONAL COINAGE
INTERNATIONAL COINAGE
By THEO. F. VAN WAGENEN, E.M.
ZACATECAS, MEXICO

IT is quite impossible to discuss the subject of coinage without touching that of money. But the reference to the latter will be brief, and will consist mainly of a statement of certain fundamentals that are now practically accepted by all.

The long and bitter controversy between monometalism and bimetalism has ended in an understanding that there is no such thing as "intrinsic value" in money. When gold monometalism became universal, silver took at once the status of a commodity, became subject to fluctuations in price according to the law of supply and demand, like all other commodities, and declined markedly in value as one of its former uses was curtailed by law. If the civilized world should agree that only certain kinds of clothing could be made of cotton, and that all others must be manufactured of wool; or that cane sugar must be the only kind employed for food, similar effects would take place in the prices of cotton and beet sugar. Again, as silver declined in price, silver mining became less profitable, and silver miners gradually forsook the business and turned their attention to gold. Immediately the production of the latter began to increase until at the present time its annual output is about double in value that of the combined product of silver and gold a generation ago. As this increase occurred, the value of gold declined, establishing the quantitative theory of the value of money. For, though by law an ounce of gold was still and is now, legally transformable at the mints of all modern nations into coin of a face or money value of about twenty dollars, yet the coins so produced and put into circulation have been capable of buying each year less and less of all other commodities; or, to put it differently, sellers of all commodities have each year demanded more money for their wares, that is, prices have steadily risen since the flood of gold began. Thus the commercial world is faced to-day with the same problem that was up for solution thirty years ago in the matter of silver, viz., how to render more stable the purchasing power of the money unit, in view of the enormous and rapidly increasing output of the world's gold mines.

Here a word as to the two metallic schools may not be out of place. Monometalism was (and is) based upon the theory that either one of the precious metals (but gold surely) is so rare in nature, so hard to win, and exists in such really limited quantities as compared with the