Greenback: The Almighty Dollar and the Invention of America by Jason Goodwin - review by Christopher Ondaatje

Christopher Ondaatje

The Buck Starts Here

Greenback: The Almighty Dollar and the Invention of America


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ALTHOUGH CALLED 'PAPER money', the US dollar is in fact a water-resistant mixture of linen and cotton, with coloured silk fibres running through it. The word 'dollar' comes from the thaler, a coin first made at the silver mines of Joachimsthal in Bohemia in 1519. Today there are seven trillion dollars in the world - most of which exist only electronically. Fourteen billion are the familiar green 'bills', or notes, and a third of these are held outside the United States. Thus 'there are more dollar bills in existence than any other branded object, including Coke cans'.

In Greenback, Jason Goodwin recounts, in his readable style, the story of the dollar, which is also, as the subtitle suggests, very much the story of the creation of America itself. More than a simple medium A counterfeit note bearing of exchange, the dollar at the very beginning was an

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