Drachmas, Doubloons, and Dollars: The History of Money

Money makes the world go round.

Money makes the man, and money answers all things. Even time is money. We use it every day, we talk about it every day, but it remains hard to define what it is and how it works.

This exhibition will show you the different shapes of money: coins, cowrie shells, salt, tokens, gold, paper money, credit cards and many more. It illustrates how money is first and foremost a way to store wealth and make payments. It makes trade easier and lets governments, merchants, and individuals pay their debts. But money is much more than just an economic object.

Every coin and paper bill can be a work of art, a political messenger, or a piece of jewelry. By looking at the money of many cultures and periods, we not only learn about their histories and attitudes, but we also gain a better understanding of how our own money works and what it says about our own culture and history.

Since at least the Renaissance, coins have attracted large numbers of collectors. Today millions of people all over the world—poor and rich—collect coins, medals or paper money. Individually, coins allow you to hold a piece of history in your own hand. Sometimes, we even know intriguing details about the person who used a coin or what it bought. More commonly, a coin is a silent witness. But, whether worn, fresh from the mint or cut, it shows us that someone in the past used or cared for it.

The American Numismatic Society and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York together invite you to visit this exhibition and learn more about the fascinating history of money.

Exhibition Parts

I. Ancient Greece and the Mediterranean World

II. Ancient Rome

III. Medieval Byzantine and Islamic Empires

IV. The Medieval West

V. Ancient and Medieval East and South Asia

VI. New Sources: The 15th and 16th Centuries

VII. Europe in Transformation: The 17th Century

VIII. The Enlightenment: The 18th Century

IX. Early America

X. African Money

XI. East and South Asia in the 19th Century

XII. Empires and Colonialism in the 19th Century

XIII. Moving West: 19th-Century America

XIV. Coins of the World

XV. The United States in the 20th Century

XVI. The Art of the Medal

XVII. The Future of Money

XVIII. U.S. Treasures of the American Numismatic Society

XIX. Manhattan Money

XX. Paper Currency of the World

Original Location

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Closed September 28, 2012.