8

At the start of the U.S. Civil War, the Confederate States of America began to print their own money. Almost immediately it began to lose value due to inflation (except in 1864). By the end of the war it was considered, for all intents and purposes, worthless.

However I am sure anyone now in the year 2019 would love to get their hands on any of these confederate bills as they can garner you anywhere from $100 to thousands of dollars just for 1 bill.

My questions are

  • Since the money was considered worthless at the end of the war, did most people just throw it out?
  • If any was kept, was it kept more as a souvenir of sorts?
  • Is there record of anyone hoarding it all with the assumption it would one day be worth something?
  • And what I'd like to know the most is at what point in history did these bills break even again? Meaning what year did their value increase to the point that they held the same purchasing power as back when they were in use during the war? So for example a confederate $100 bill goes from $100 down to $0 and back up to $100 for a short time before it exceeds $100 in value. About what year did this happen?
  • @TomasBy yes in fact that was actually what prompted me to ask this question, however I asked it wrong. I will fix it, thank you. – wardr Dec 3 '19 at 13:54
  • The answer might be found in this book by Peter Frick. – Spencer Dec 3 '19 at 14:06
  • Possibly related: Lost Cause of the Confederacy. (Collectors are another possibility of course.) – Denis de Bernardy Dec 3 '19 at 14:51
  • Confederate money never lost value. After the war a Confederate bill was worth exactly the face value in confederate money, which had no value. So a Confederate one dollar bill was always worth exactly one Confederate dollar. What changed was the value of a physical piece of Rebel paper money in US dollars or other legal tender, which went from zero to valuable collectible decades after the war. – MAGolding Dec 3 '19 at 18:54
5

The value of Confederate money, as a currency has not changed, since the issuer (Confederate States of America) no longer exists.

Many tall tales exist on how the currency was used after the war.

The most amusing one can be seen in episode 1 of the Beverly Hillbillies.

What is true, is that many Confederate Bonds were horded (mainly in Europe) in the vain hope that they would one day be redeemed by the United States.

However, at the close of the war the re-established Federal authorities ignored these foreign bonds, like all the other bonds of the Confederate government, or of state governments under the Confederacy.


The value of an individual Banknotes or Coins have changed based on the conditions common for collecter items

  • quality, rarity, demand

CSA $1.7 billion were issued as banknotes between 1861 and 1864.

Around 23,000 gold coins (using original US die) were believed to have been minted.

10.000 as 1 and 5 dollars, 13,000 in 20 dollars coins.

So around $300,000 in gold coins as compared to $1.7 billion (0.02% in gold coins) in banknotes.

1 May 1865 (last exchange): $1200.00 to $1 in gold.

Since 99.98% of CSA currency was in banknotes, comparisons with possible confederate gold coins is really not relevant.


Sources:

|improve this answer|||||
  • thanks but I'm mainly looking for the exact year the value of the notes exceeded the value printed on the note - in US dollars. – wardr Jan 15 at 6:40
  • @wardr The buying value of each note (independent of denomination) is US $ 0.00, so there is no year. – Mark Johnson Jan 15 at 8:41
  • 1
    @‘Mark Johnson’ I’m not really sure where the disconnect is here, but I thought the question was rather clear. Either you don’t understand the question or are just being difficult on purpose to be “technically right”? I’m clearly not looking for whatever you are trying to relay. I’d like to know, in US dollars, when the value of the note broke even and became more valuable than the number printed on the note. – wardr Jan 26 at 9:22
  • 1
    @wardr There wer 7 different issues of Confederate Banknotes. So there are 7 different $ 100 notes that differ from each other. As a collectors item each based on rarity and condition of each note will differ radically in price ($20 to $1000). As a currency unit they all have the value US 0.00. In your question you have not made it clear which type of calculation your are asking for. You then downvote an answer that attempts to explain to you the difference. You should ask yourself why this is the only answer. Nobody else knows what you want. – Mark Johnson Jan 26 at 9:53
  • This is just plain wrong. It's like saying that gold coins have no value. While they may not be useful as currency, they certainly have value as goods. For instance, a US $20 gold coin can be worth anywhere from around $1200 (bullion price) to perhaps $50,000. – jamesqf 2 days ago
4

Mark Johnson answered already (correctly) that Confederate Money has no value, but individual banknotes and coins (and bonds) can have value as collectors' items. This is, however, not due to Federal Authorities IGNORING Confederate Bonds or other claims - a coin or bill is also a claim against the issuer to accept it as payment. On the contrary, they made ACTIVELY sure all who had ever helped the Confederacy with deliveries or services or payments and now held cash or bonds of any Confederate authority would NEVER see any compensation.

Therefore, they passed the 14th Amendment that says in section 4, 2nd sentence: "But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void." That means making Confederate bonds or cash again to money that has worth would require changing the US constitution. This is relatively difficult and without broad unity in US impossible. We can conclude that no people would speculate in those instruments and would be "hoarding it all with the assumption it would one day be worth something", which was asked in the third bullet in the question.

Speculation in other old bonds does happen: After fall of the Soviet-union, I read of speculators buying bonds of Czarist Russia and demanding Russia to honor them, because Russia could otherwise not raise money at some old bond markets in Western Europe. I have not heard that this speculation was successful.

|improve this answer|||||
New contributor
Peter T is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
  • There was a flag, but IMHO this serves as an answer and explanation to the third bullet in the question. It might not hurt to clarify that though. – T.E.D. 2 days ago
  • 1
    Thanks for the comment. I've tried to clarify the answer to the third bullet in the question. – Peter T 2 days ago
  • 1
    Yes. My Lithuanian great-grandfather invested in some 500 ruble imperial notes that were never redeemable, but are very pretty. – Aaron Brick yesterday
3

The question, as asked, has no objective answer. The collector value of a Confederate banknote is not fixed by anything, and I doubt it is particularly consistent during any given year.

Going from the general behaviour of collectables with no intrinsic utility, the price will depend very strongly on condition, quite probably varying by a factor of ten or more between mint and well-used. Other factors will include location, keenness of the collector and skill of the seller, and variations in rarity. Since there are 72 different types of genuine Confederate banknotes, plus many collectable forgeries, rarity is likely to be the most important factor.

Finally, none of these factors are likely to be strongly linked to the face value of the notes, so even if the question was answerable, the answers would inevitably be different for different denominations.

|improve this answer|||||

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.