United States

The United States is a super power in the modern world. It is the smaller half of North America - Canada is larger. The exports include capital goods e.g. machinery, telecommunications equipment, and aircraft and industrial supplies e.g. chemicals, wood and paper products, metals. The Currency trades under the ISO initials of USD. The money rates at 100 cents equals 1 dollar.


The first currency in the United States was Norwegian. The first currency to circulate in the country, however, came from the 13 colonies. The natives also made their contribution using wampum, skins and tobacco, as did local traders. There was also foreign coinage in the colonies, including Dutch, French, German and English. The most common was the Spanish real legal until 1857.

Boston was producing coins for the Massachusetts Bay Company in crude silver featuring the letters NE for New England in 1652. For 30 years, coins came out of Boston in 3 pence, 6 pence and a shilling. The designs later featured the words “Massathusets” in English and a tree. Initially a willow it became next an oak then a pine.

In 1658 Maryland produced a copper penny, silver groat, 6 pence and a shilling. All bore the portrait of Lord Baltimore. New Jersey had an Irish ½ penny in 1682 called St. Patrick’s coins. The first Virginian coin did not appear until 1773. It was a halfpenny mined in England.

These forms of currency circulated together with foreign coins. Paper money also achieved great popularity ranging in type from 1 penny to 1 pound. In the French-settled sectors of the country, paper and coin currency circulated adding to the mix. Continental currency under independence changed the scene slightly after 1775. This paper money was intended to help, but the country did not forge a single currency, resulting in separate coinage.

The first federal money came in the form of coins. These were the “fugios” deriving their name from the Latin inscription. They also were called Franklin cents. These coins became the standard. Nevertheless, private tokens and state issue abounded.  This did not alter until the Mint Act of 1792. It made the currency conform to a decimal system in which 100 cents equal 1 dollar. It made the dollar and the cent the official coinage of the United States of America. This has not altered over the centuries since. What have changed are the designs.

In the mid-1790s, three designs were allowed: Liberty head or figure; eagle, and value within a wreath. This remained the case for several decades. The defeat of the War of 1812, the Gold Rush and the Civil War had little effect on the design. The availability of gold did result in the increase in private gold coins and the establishment of a mint in San Francisco to regulate the money. It also saw the release of gold dollars and the double-eagle coins.

Other changes took place in the 1800s. The Indian penny arrived while the 3-cent coin and ½ dime disappeared. In 1907, Augustus St. Gaudens designed an exquisite coin, the Flying Eagle. In 1909, past presidents began to appear on coins, for example Abraham Lincoln on the cent. George Washington was placed on the quarter in 1932 and Franklin D Roosevelt in 1946. The trend has continued into the 1960s and 1970s. The Act of 2007 firmly entrenched the practice for 1-dollar coins.

Hawaii, a member of the USA since 1898, did not have American money until after annexation. The first coins in 1847 were hapahaneri featuring King Kamehameha (1825-1854). They resembled American money in denominations but the portraits were of the current kings, including David Kalakaua (1874-1891). In 1893, Hawaii became a republic before annexation and then absorption by the United States. It adopted without reservation the federal money.
American money today is in a crisis. In 2008, it actually dipped in value beneath the Canadian dollar. The failure of certain prominent institutions of the banking system in September 2008 has also caused a lost in confidence in the dollar. American money currently consists of both paper and hard currency. You can obtain and use coins in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50-cents as well as 1-dollar. The 50-cent piece and dollar coin are not in popular usage. In banknotes, you can obtain money in denominations of 1, (2), 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 dollars.

Obtaining United States or American Dollars

In America, you can easily exchange your money at banks in special exchange offices and even in some businesses. There are banks in every town or city. If you cannot locate a bank, you will find an ATM. ATMs are everywhere. You can find them in banks, on the street, in stores, in shopping malls and in other businesses. Check first with your own bank for rates of exchange.

Protecting Your Currency

Crime rates vary according to what city you visit. Car jacking, pickpocketing and ATM kidnapping are possible. Mugging outside an ATM is a crime perpetrated on locals as well as tourists. Be careful when you are in the poorer districts. Take care when you walk around the tourist sectors. Do not leave your money or belongings alone.  Always take precautions.

Using Your American Dollars

American like plastic, but they do not refuse cash. Take cash for taxi rides, buses and other forms of local transportation. Use the local currency to buy small purchase from street vendors or small businesses.

Travel Tips and Warnings


The United States of America is a diverse country in North America. While not the largest country in the world, it is currently one of the most powerful. The recent problems with the banking system place its financial position and the dollar’s use as a standard currency in jeopardy.
For factual information and data, go to www.usa.gov.

Currency Summary

Current currency: dollar
100 cents equal 1 dollar
Coins: 1, 5, 10, 25, and (50)-cents; (1-dollar)
Banknotes: 1, (2), 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 dollar