Paper Money

Monday Morning Brief for October 22, 2018

The Oct. 12 “On the Media” podcast featured an examination of the value of money, including a segment devoted to controversial artist J.S.G. Boggs.

Original images courtesy of WNYC and Heritage Auctions.

On my short drives to work and back home, or a longer jaunt in my car, I usually listen to a podcast rather than music. My tastes lean to science, as with “The Skeptics Guide,” and to news. One of my favorite podcasts in the latter category is “On the Media” with Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield, produced by WNYC Studios. It explores “how the media shapes our worldview,” which, as a lifelong journalist and consumer of media, I find fascinating.

The Oct. 12 podcast, called “Full Faith & Credit,” posed a question that appeals to my numismatic side, “What is money? It’s what you pay the electric bill with — and it’s also the story of humankind.” As someone who has spent decades writing about the collecting of different forms of money, I found the subject matter especially compelling.

The podcast was broken into three segments, the first devoted to artist J.S.G. Boggs, who is familiar to our longtime readers; the second segment addressed “Money, Then and Now,” focusing on changes to money; and the third dealt with cryptocurrencies. 

Throughout the podcast, host Bob Garfield and his guests kept coming back to the idea of faith — a faith that money has value because humans agree that it has value. As Boggs’ reputation grew, his artwork became increasingly accepted as having value (except to government authorities); the Yap stone money mentioned in the second segment had value because of the islanders’ collective memories and their faith in those memories; cryptocurrencies are coming to be seen as having value as new technologies emerge in which “tokens” are coined not on traditional presses but in the processors of computers.

As a numismatist and a journalist, I found it interesting to listen to a discussion of money from the viewpoints of individuals outside our small closed society. I think that you would find the podcast interesting as well. The three segments that aired in the podcast are accessible here. I highly recommend that you listen to them. 


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