Unstable Coins: The Early History of Central Bank Analog Currencies
Abstract: Recently, there has been much discussion as to whether central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) should be introduced, and if so, how they should be designed. This article offers a historical perspective on this discussion, with a survey of early public bank (proto-central bank) "analog currencies"—circulating banknotes. Public banknotes were an experimental product when they were first issued in sixteenth-century Naples, but by the late nineteenth century, such notes could be found in most European countries. In between came all sorts of implementation difficulties: egregious insider fraud, a real estate finance bubble, hyperinflation, rampant counterfeiting, and complete institutional collapse. Despite these many misfires, central bank–issued notes eventually became the default form of payment in virtually every country worldwide.
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Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
Part of Series: Policy Hub*
Publication Date: 2022-03-03