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What happened to Confederate money after the Civil War?

Confederate currency had images of enslaved people, historical figures, and mythical deities. elycefeliz / Flickr, CC BY-ND Curious Kids is a series for children of all ages. If you have a question you want an expert to answer, send it to What happened to Confederate money after the Civil War? – Ray G., 12, Arlington, Virginia At the time of the Civil War in 1861, the United States government was not printing paper money; he only struck coins. As an American Civil War historian, I study how the Confederate government used a radical idea: printing paper money. In 1861, 11 states attempted to leave the United States and form a new country, causing a four-year war. Wars cost a lot of money, so the new country, called the Confederate States of America, printed money to pay its bills. But that money looked more like a promise – in technical terms, a “promissory note” – because its certificates were actually promises to give the holder of the currency a specific amount of gold or silver, but only if the Confederation won the war. Bills issued earlier in the war were right about them: “Six months after the ratification of a peace treaty between the Confederate States and the United States, the Confederate States of America will foot the bill” to the person who holds it. The later currency delayed the promised payment until two years after a peace treaty. This Confederate $ 1 note was issued in 1864 in Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy. National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History via Wikimedia Commons The notes were commonly referred to as “gray backs,” after Confederate soldiers, who wore gray uniforms. Their tickets were decorated with a variety of images, including depictions of mythological gods or goddesses, such as the Goddess of Liberty. Other gray backs carried images of important people in Southern history like George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Jefferson Davis. Some of the bills depicted enslaved Americans working in the fields, or featured images of cotton wool or trains. But these images were often not of very good quality, as the Confederation did not have many engravers capable of making the detailed plates to print the silver. When the South began to lose the war, the value of Confederate money plummeted. In addition, the prices of food, clothing and other essentials increased because many items were scarce during the war. Gray backs have become almost worthless. This is what 1 million Confederate dollars looked like, in a 1962 photo. National Archives of the United States At the end of 1864, a few months before the end of the war, a Confederate dollar was worth only three cents in American currency. When the Confederate Army surrendered in April 1865, the Graybacks lost any value they might have had. Confederation no longer existed, so no one would trade their paper money for gold or silver. Today, however, Confederate dollars have value as a collector’s item. Just as people will pay money to own a Civil War hat or musket, so they will pay money to own Confederate money. Some rare Confederate banknotes are now worth 10 times more than they were in 1861. Hello, curious children! Have a question you would like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to Please tell us your name, age and city where you live. And since curiosity has no age limit – adults, also tell us what you are wondering. We will not be able to answer all of the questions, but we will do our best. This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Robert Gudmestad, Colorado State University. Read more: How many states and provinces in the world? Why is money green? Robert Gudmestad does not work for, consult with, own stock or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has not disclosed any relevant affiliation beyond his academic appointment.

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