Were you alive in 1969?

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taco's picture
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Were you alive in 1969?

The demoninations of circulating US paper currency and coinage have remained unchanged since around 1969 ($100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, 1, 0.5, 0.25, 0.1, 0.05, 0.01).* I was not alive at that time and do not have a solid understanding of the supply, demand, and pricing of goods during that time period. Therefore I have to assume that this range and gradation of currency values was adequete and perhaps necessary for people to transact daily business. Accordingly, the value of $100 bills were large enough to accomodate the largest of common transactions and the one cent piece represented the minimal value required for the smallest purchases.

Now consider our present day situation: inflation has eroded the value of our currency by 83%‡, but the available demonimations are unchanged. The inflation figure is not remarkable in itself -- this fact is widely published and a common point of discussion. What *is* remarkable is the fact the even though the overall value of the currency has dropped by 83%, *no* changes have been made to the denominations of the circulating currency. In the accompanying chart, the value of each denomination of today's currency is shown in 1969 dollars. Our largest bill today ($100) cannot equal the purchasing power of a $20 bill in 1969, yet back then it seemed to make sense to also have available bills that were worth five times that amount. On the other end of the scale, our one-cent piece today is worth so little that it cannot be measured using 1969 currency. If a unit of exchange of such small value wasn't useful in 1969, why do we find it necessary now?

 

Today's Currency Denominations Value in 1969 dollars
$100.00 $17.110
$50.00 $8.555
$20.00 $3.422
$10.00 $1.711
$5.00 $0.856
$2.00 $0.342
$1.00 $0.171
$0.50 $0.086
$0.25 $0.043
$0.10 $0.017
$0.05 $0.009
$0.01 $0.002

 

This dislocation between the ever changing value of money and the never-changing denominations of our currency does not sit well with me. I know we can invoke the wide-spread use of credit cards to rationalize the lack of need for large bills; and we can invoke a stubborn and nostalgic citizenry to explain the tenacity of the penny. Still, it just seems that something is wrong or stuck with the way we perceive our hard currency. For example, we might expect that as prices inflated, people would find increased utility in inflation-friendly denominations such as the half-dollar coin and the two-dollar bill. Both of these denominations are still circulated and printed/coined as needed, however they are not accepted as useful denominations. This distortion is also evidenced by the strong negative reactions that can be elicited from many people merely by commenting that the available denominations of our currency are long overdue for an overhaul.

I am interested to hear other people's opinions on this matter. What do you think? If you were alive and spending in 1969 your insights would be most valuable. How much money would you find in people's wallets back then? Did holding a $20 bill feel like a lot of money (akin to having a $100 bill in your wallet today)? Or did it not seem like such a big deal since there existed two bills of larger denomination? Would having a coin of value smaller than a penny been useful in those times?

 

* 1969 represents the year that circulation of bills larger than $100 was suspended. Some coin denominations such as the half- and one-dollar pieces were introduced in the early 1970s.

‡ according to the BLS inflation calculator: http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm

Damnthematrix's picture
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Re: Were you alive in 1969?

You know what they say about the sixties...... if you can remember them, you weren't really there..!

I'm amazed you still have pennies.... when Australia went decimal in 1964 we had 1c and 2c coins, and $1 and $2 notes. now those small coins are gone, and the small notes are "gold" coins (fake of course!), our smallest note being $5. The $100 note was only introduced maybe 20 years ago, and are rarely seen (by this poor Aussie at any rate!)

Mike

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Re: Were you alive in 1969?

If you were not alive in 1969 then you probably have little experience with the pre- 1964 coinage. That is before dimes and quarters became sandwich coins. Before 1964 these coins were 90% silver and later became mostly copper. Why? Because of inflation It cost  more to mint the coin than the face value of the coin.

I remember at the time I had a sinking feeling that this was not a good thing but I was not quite sure what it meant in the long term.

The real question we should ask is Why do we have to suffer inflation?

Thanks to the CC and many of the participants on this site I now have a better appreciation for what inflation and debt based money is doing to us.

Ken

 

 

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Re: Were you alive in 1969?
kenc wrote:

If you were not alive in 1969 then you probably have little experience with the pre- 1964 coinage. That is before dimes and quarters became sandwich coins. Before 1964 these coins were 90% silver and later became mostly copper. Why? Because of inflation It cost  more to mint the coin than the face value of the coin.

I remember at the time I had a sinking feeling that this was not a good thing but I was not quite sure what it meant in the long term.

The real question we should ask is Why do we have to suffer inflation?

Thanks to the CC and many of the participants on this site I now have a better appreciation for what inflation and debt based money is doing to us.

Ken

 

 

+1   Re-post, page 94 is my favorite inflation read

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Re: Were you alive in 1969?

I can remember 1965, quite clearly. Wow,  I feel old!  I saved my allowance that entire year, and ended up with $12.00. This was quite an achievement. Our weekly grocery bill, for a family of six, was somewhere around $40.00 My father, an officer in the military, probably brought home about $600.00 a month, but it could have been less. We bought the house we lived in, in 1969, for $14,000. It was a typical lower middle class type abode in small town Southern Ontario. The same house today would be more than 10 times that price.

No child, in my memory, ever carried 20.00 around with them, in 1969. That would be like a kid carrying around  200.00 today. It was big money, to any pre adolescant. You would gaze on a 100 dollar bill as if it was a ticket to a life of  truffles, filet mignon,  European vacations and decadence of all sorts. Cadillacs with lovely fins would race through your mental landscape. Oh bliss!

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Re: Were you alive in 1969?

There was still penny candy, and 50 cents was big money at the 5 and dime. Gas was 25 cents/gal. $500 could buy a decent, working used car...

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Re: Were you alive in 1969?

Man's first moon walk seemed to be a long hard technological struggle, that defined  American know how, confidence and yes...I grudgingly admit, superiority.  We assumed  it would be followed by successive great achievements that would be accompanied by  social reforms, including universal health care -European or Canadian style.  In retropsect,1969 seems like the apex of American civilization. It's apparent now, that, as Americans struggled to ascend further, both socially and technologically, subsidence in the form of black off the record projects, oil hegemony, ongoing warfare, a failing fiat regime, and corporate fascism, forced them to slip back, inch by inch. It didn't start with the Bushes. It started with the Kennedy's and King's murder.

This article meanders all over the place, but gives you an idea of what it was like to be a kid in 1969.

I was at a summer arts camp on Lake Ontario when I got the good news the night of July 20, 1969. Word had travelled from the counsellors to the kids that Apollo 11 had reached the moon. NASA had shepherded three astronauts through millions of miles in space, allowing Neil Armstrong to make his “…one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

http://www.geoffolson.com/page5/page11/page117/page117.html

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Re: Were you alive in 1969?

I was born in 1960, and recall 1969 vividly, if through the eyes of a then 9 year old!

One of my favorite indices of inflation, as it relates to a favorite purchase of mine as a child, is comic books.  In 1969, comic books were typically around 15 cents; sometimes 20 cents for a special or deluxe issue.  Now, comic book prices are between 3 and 4 dollars, if I recall correctly (it has been a couple of years since I sprung for some comic books for my boys to read during a road trip).

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Re: Were you alive in 1969?

Oh, and to answer taco's questions:

If I recall correctly (again, I was only a child back then), my father would typically have 20-40 dollars in his wallet on a typical day, and that was considered quite a bit, as he was a fairly successful architect. If we were on a family vacation, my father probably carried around 200 dollars or more. I vaguely recall when he started using a credit card regularly, sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s. We used travelers' checks with some frequency while on family vacations back then, too. Otherwise, when my parent's wallets were low on cash, they could typically cash a check at nearly any business, regardless of whether or not it was an out-of-state check.

Pennies in 1969 were useful only for individual pieces of gum or small candies.  They're worthless, now.

On a vacation sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s, I recall finding two $20 bills lodged between two stones in a stream that one could ride down by just sitting and bouncing around the water-weathered stones. I felt like a millionaire! And, I have to admit with definite shame that I very rudely refused to loan my new found wealth to my parents to pay for something (probably our dinner) when they were low on cash later that very same day!

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Re: Were you alive in 1969?
ccpetersmd wrote:

And, I have to admit with definite shame that I very rudely refused to loan my new found wealth to my parents to pay for something (probably our dinner) when they were low on cash later that very same day!

Darned lucky you weren't born a generation earlier. The same behaviour could have landed you a darned good beating.Surprised

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Re: Were you alive in 1969?

 1969 Movie ,popcorn ,and a pop for $.50 ......      2010  last night same movie popcorn and pop  was $12 .

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Re: Were you alive in 1969?

1969 was the year I left school and went to work, and one vivid recollection I have is being so broke on payday that all I could afford was to 20c worth of gas in my car so I could actually make it to work!  You wouldn't even drive out the driveway on that much gas today! Oh and you could find a park for car in the middle of town without ever having to drive around the block.......

Mike

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Re: Were you alive in 1969?
Full Moon wrote:

 1969 Movie ,popcorn ,and a pop for $.50 ......      2010  last night same movie popcorn and pop  was $12 .

Ouch.  

Where I'm from, movie (matinee bargain price = $6.75), popcorn ($10) and pop ($5.25) = $17.  That'll teach me to partake of the societal continuum....

Viva -- Sager

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Re: Were you alive in 1969?

in '69 I worked brite tobacco for 15$/week. It was flu cured of course. Smaked by  parents of the day.

 

Robie

husband,father,farmer,optometrist

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Re: Were you alive in 1969?

I remember summer '69 vividly.  In August I was sitting on a ship in Norfolk, VA wishing I didn't have duty that weekend so I could have gone to Woodstock.  Truth be told, I was probably better off where I was.  I had a '58 Chevy with a 409 taht cost me $400.  I had saved that up on a tour of duty in the Persian Gulf where there wasn't much to spend money on anyway (except 22K gold jewelry that I could have bought at near the $35/oz gold price at the time, or Persian carpets that cost about $35 for an 8'x10' rug.)  If only I'd known then...

Doug

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Re: Were you alive in 1969?

Having a coin smaller than a penny would not have been useful back then.  You could buy penny candy and candy bars were 5 to 10 cents.  Taystee cake pies were 12 or 15 cents (I loved those things).  A quarter was still significant and a $1 bill could buy several useful items.  A $20 bill was a good amount of money then though.  I have no idea what my father carried in his wallet but we didn't have credit cards and my parents never even used a checkbook.  Everything was paid cash or with a money order from the bank or post office.  High school cafeteria lunch special was 35 cents (I was 16 then).  The lowest I remember gas when I started driving a year later was 27 cents.  Had my first summer job a year later also making minimum wage of $1.25/hr. working on a university farm.  I'd probably just given up working a paper route the year before and $10 profit per week was decent.  I saved up and bought a Feinwerkbau olympic pellet rifle that cost $169 with a scope and accessories which was a huge amount of money back then for a kid.  The equivalent rifle now runs over $3000.   

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Re: Were you alive in 1969?

Interesting! I always wondered why the character in Japanese for the verb "to buy" is composed of a "net" and a "shell" :)

Samuel

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Re: Were you alive in 1969?

It is very hard to compare then to now. Gasoline, for example, used to have lead additives that made it much easier and cheaper to refine to an acceptable octane. Of course no one back then gave any thought to peak oil as it was considered plentiful and easy to get and there was no tampering by OPEC. Sure the value of the dollar has declined but the value of the cost to produce and deliver gas today has risen and so have the taxes on each gallon we buy but cannot see. How many people right now can tell you how much of each gallon of gas goes to taxes? The price of other items like milk, eggs and just about everything agricultural are tainted by government action and manipulation. It is hard to compare a gallon of milk today to a gallon 40 years ago. And then there is the fact that most items we bought back then were American made whereas today its all imported. There is no doubt that our dollar has declined but it is very difficult to gauge it and, more importantly, feel it.

I was born in '71 so I do not know what life was like in '69 but I do know that life as we know it today has been all I have ever known. It has taken a number of years and generations to get to this point but we are at a point now where yearly inflation and rising prices are considered "normal". When we go to the store to buy a package of underwear that we haven't bought for 12 months and realize that the price has gone up 50 cents (if we can even remember what we paid a year ago) we just shrug our shoulders and accept it as normal inflation. And that's a shame because over half the population just accepts what is happening and does not question or even think about fighting back. Inflation is the invisible tax but because most of us just accept it, it opens the door for all of us to be exploited and our pocketbooks looted. The IRS takes money from our paychecks and we can see it and feel it and put a value on how much we are losing to the government. If every year they took 5% more there would quickly be a revolution but because we cannot see and feel the effects of inflation we do nothing. There will come a point, however, when the average American wakes up and realizes that he has been lied to his whole life and his money has been stolen from him. He will be very, very angry, even to the point of wanting to take up arms, but by that point he will be too poor, hungry and destitute to do anything about it. He will gladly stand in line at a soup kitchen for hours for a few scraps of food than to risk losing even that much by fighting against the system he helped to create.

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Re: Were you alive in 1969?

Interesting responses . Thanks everyone. It gives me a better perspective of the time. One thing I find interesting is that even though there existed a $50 and $100 bill during that time, it sounds like they weren't used much. If people needed something larger than a $20, apparently they would consider a money order or check. 

Interesting to think that if retailers today are loath to accept a $100 bill, imagine what a retailer would have thought of that same bill 40 years ago! It would be like handing a retailer a $500 dollar bill today. Ha!

 

 

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Re: Were you alive in 1969?

All I can remember fiscally-speaking from '69 (I was 4) was that gas was less than $0.30/gallon and my weekly allowance (for chores performed) was $0.35.  I used to save up to buy plastic assembly-required model aircraft kits (esp. WWII-era).  Egad that was a long time ago...

Viva -- Sager

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Re: Were you alive in 1969?

Back around '69, our summer fun would be to take 25 to 50 cents down to the candy store about a mile and a half away and buy a whole bag of penny candy.  That was a lot of fun for an 8 year old back then.  I remember having $5 of birthday money in my wallet and feeling like I was rich.  Now, that $5 will barely buy a cup of designer coffee and be gone in 15 minutes.  Back then, it gave me buying power for a good part of the summer.

It is hard to compare some things though.  A $500 used car bought less car then than it does now.  Cars did not last long in Pittsburgh and back then, a 3 year old car with 60,000 miles was considered pretty much run out.  The bad roads, salt and lack of rust protection consumed cars pretty quickly.  Today, a 3 year old car with 60,000 miles is barely broken in.  A buddy of mine has been trying to sell me an 87 BMW 535 for $500 and it is a pretty nice car that would run an easy 100,000 more miles if maintained well.

Tim

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Re: Were you alive in 1969?

1969... I would have been 11 years old. Saturday matinee movies were 50 cents, gas was cheap, people went on long road trips for vacations,  the fighting in Vietnam was on the nightly news- complete with body counts, girls were not allowed to wear pants to elementary school unless it was very cold, there were still lots of undeveloped places to play, parents didn't mind just letting the kids run off for a few hours- as long as they were in a group, rock music was still played on instruments by real musicians, there were only 3 TV networks (we got 2) and TV was in black & white, tacky cheap plastic stuff came from Japan... a few of the things I remember.  It was a both more peaceful, and more turbulent time; people did seem to take more interest in what was going on in the world.

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Re: Were you alive in 1969?

taco, I still ask store clerks if they are able to cash a $50 bill on the rare occassion I am carrying one vs smaller denominations.:)  They always say "yes"...I suddenly realize on reading this thread how antiquated -or if I'm really lucky, "quaint"- that question probably is anymore!

I remember buying 10 cent bags of "bridge mix" candy from Montgomery Wards with my allowance (around and abouts that time).  Or TWO 5 cent candy bars!  Heady times for a kid!

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