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The Bank of Amsterdam through the lens of monetary competition
In 1683 the Bank of Amsterdam introduced a form of fiat money that successfully competed with the coinage of the time. We argue that the principal motive for this monetary innovation was the uncertain value of coins circulating within the Dutch Republic. The Bank's fiat money regime persisted until the downfall of the Dutch Republic in 1795 and incorporated modern features such as gross settlement of financial obligations, open market operations, central bank repurchase agreements (the equivalent thereof), and emergency liquidity facilities.
How Amsterdam got fiat money
We investigate a fiat money system introduced by the Bank of Amsterdam in 1683. Using data from the Amsterdam Municipal Archives, we partially reconstruct changes in the bank's balance sheet from 1666 through 1702. Our calculations show that the Bank of Amsterdam, founded in 1609, was engaged in two archetypal central bank activities?lending and open market operations?both before and after its adoption of a fiat standard. After 1683, the bank was able to conduct more regular and aggressive policy interventions, from a virtually nonexistent capital base. The bank's successful experimentation ...
Responding to a shadow banking crisis: the lessons of 1763
In August 1763, northern Europe experienced a financial crisis with numerous parallels to the 2008 Lehman Brothers episode. The 1763 crisis was sparked by the failure of a major provider of acceptance loans, a form of securitized credit resembling modern asset-backed commercial paper. The central bank at the hub of the crisis, the Bank of Amsterdam, responded by broadening the range of acceptable collateral for its repo transactions. Analysis of archival data shows that this emergency source of liquidity helped to contain the effects of the crisis, by preventing the collapse of at least two ...
The big problem of large bills: the Bank of Amsterdam and the origins of central banking
This paper outlines a model of the first true central bank, the Bank of Amsterdam, founded in 1609. Employing a variant of the Freeman (1996) model of money and payments, we first analyze the problematic monetary situation in the Netherlands prior to the founding of the Bank. We then use the model to describe how the Bank could remedy this situation by creating a stable medium for the settlement of commercial obligations.
Standing Repo Facilities, Then and Now
Recently there have been discussions, both within the FOMC and more broadly, about whether the FOMC should set up a standing repo facility. Such a facility would allow banks to sell safe assets (U.S. Treasury securities) to the Fed, with the assurance of subsequent repurchase, in unlimited quantities at an administered rate. This is not a new idea. In fact, a similar facility was implemented in 1683by the Bank of Amsterdam, the leading central bank of the time, and operated for more than a century afterward. In this article, we describe the motivations, operations, and limitations of the Bank ...
An economic explanation of the early Bank of Amsterdam, debasement, bills of exchange, and the emergence of the first central bank
The Bank of Amsterdam, founded in 1609, was the first public bank to offer accounts not directly convertible to coin. As such, it can be described as the first true central bank. The debut of central bank money did not result from any conscious policy decision, however, but instead arose almost by accident, in response to the chaotic monetary conditions during the early years of the Dutch Republic. This paper examines the history of this momentous development from the perspective of modern monetary theory.
The evolution of the check as a means of payment: a historical survey
Though checks' popularity is now waning in favor of electronic payments, checks were, for much of the twentieth century, the most widely used noncash payment method in the United States. How did such a relatively inefficient form of payment become so dominant? This article traces the historical evolution of the check, focusing on its relation to complementary and competing payment technologies. ; Originating in the eastern Mediterranean during the first millennium as a convenient form of payment between local merchants, checks became more versatile through the development of negotiability in ...
Are on-line currencies virtual banknotes?
The history of money is marked by innovations that have expanded the role of "inside money"-money created by the private sector. For instance, the past few years have seen the development of several types of on-line payment arrangements, some of which have been dubbed "on-line currencies." ; This article examines the likely success or failure of on-line currencies by means of a historical analogy. The discussion compares the introduction of on-line currencies to the debut of the bearer banknote, the direct predecessor to modern currency, in London in the late 1600s. ; The key innovation ...
Death of a Reserve Currency
The Dutch bank florin was the dominant currency in Europe during much of the 17th and 18th centuries. The florin, a fiat money, was managed by an early central bank, the Bank of Amsterdam. Using a new reconstruction of the Bank of Amsterdam's balance sheet, we analyze the florin's loss of reserve currency status during the period 1781?92. The reconstruction shows that by 1784, accommodative policies rendered the Bank of Amsterdam "policy insolvent," meaning that its net worth would have been negative under continuation of its policy objectives. Policy insolvency coincided with the Bank of ...
An Early Experiment with \"Permazero\"
We investigate a monetary regime with persistent, near-zero policy interest rates ("permazero" in the terminology of Bullard 2015). This regime was implemented in 1683 by a prominent early central bank called the Bank of Amsterdam ("Bank"). The Bank fixed its policy rate at one-half percent and held it unchanged for more than a century. Maintaining the rate helped stabilize the value of Bank money. We employ archival data to reconstruct the Bank's activities during a portion of that interval (1736?91) for which data are most readily available. The data suggest that "permazero" worked ...