Today, the California Gold Quarter Dollar Coin remembers the excitement of the gold traders on December 17, 1878.
The Daily Alta California reported the gold news of the day, 137 years ago.
Gold at Par. New York, December 17th.— One of the events of the day in financial circles was the sale of gold at 100. The first sale at par caused considerable enthusiasm in the Gold Room, the brokers waving their hats and cheering. The opening price was 100 1/2; closing, 100, sales and bid.
GREENBACKS AT PAR
Gold was sold yesterday [Dec. 17] at par in New York for the first time in sixteen years, during which period it has been deprived of its character as money for general use on the Atlantic slope, its place being occupied by the cheaper currency, greenbacks.
The usage of 40,000,000 people, however, could not deprive gold of being the main standard of value in our country, notwithstanding its conversion into merchandise; with the support of the civilized world it had a fixed price, while the greenbacks were more or less depredated.
The reports of the New York Stock Board said gold was at a premium; the chief financial authorities everywhere said the greenbacks were at a discount.
Through all the fluctuations, California adhered to her unfluctuating currency, and by its help escaped many of the losses that hampered the business of the Eastern States.
The rise in greenbacks is the natural result of the resumption policy.
The law has promised resumption on the first day of January, 1879, and business has anticipated the Statute by resuming two weeks in advance.
The rise in the value of greenbacks is a loss to debtors, but the change was inevitable.
We could not maintain forever two dollars of different values; we could not debase the gold, and nothing remained but to raise the greenback.
If it were a good thing to depreciate the greenback to 90, why not carry the depreciation farther, till the discount was 70 or 80 per cent?
If money can be cheapened with benefit to the nation by depreciating the currency, why not make money so cheap that it will be worth little more than the cost of the rags and lampblack?
The principle is the same for a large as for a small discount.
The whole theory of irredeemable money is false and its practice pernicious.
We congratulate the nation on the arrival of resumption, and hope we shall never see a doable currency, with part of it fluctuating, again.
The Sacramento Daily Union provided an additional viewpoint.
GOLD AT PAR.
Yesterday the problem of resumption was practically solved.
Gold sold at par with greenbacks in New York. This point has been reached after great exertion, and in the teeth of a violent and stubborn opposition.
It will depend upon Congress whether it shall be maintained, and this is unfortunate, though it is sufficiently apparent that the country has made itself ready for resumption.
With much friction and suffering the nation has slowly dragged itself out of the slough of inflation. This process of rescue necessitated the general reduction of prices.
That was the essential preliminary to any real financial restoration. The reduction of prices has wrung groans of anguish from those who thought that the fever of inflation could be made permanent, and who persisted in regarding the collapse of unreal and fictitious values as the actual loss of so much tangible wealth.
But circumstances favored the change, and so it went on notwithstanding all outcry, just as it went on in England at the beginning of the century.
The fact is that inflation had outlived its time, and its decline had become inevitable.
We have now reached the bottom, and we once more stand on firm ground.
Henceforth the permanence of resumption can only be affected by persistence in the coinage of silver.
If Congress can be induced to stop that imbecile and destructive program, the relations between gold and paper will arrange themselves, and the premium on gold will disappear finally.
Today the paper promises of the United States are worth one hundred cents to the dollar.
That is the effect of persistence in an honest policy.
The country has declared its intention to redeem its obligations, and the confidence of the people in the good faith of that pledge is measured by the fact that the day appointed for resumption has been forestalled two weeks, and that gold is at par.
We trust that this is the beginning of better times.
It is a great gain to have placed the currency upon a sound basis at last.
It is an immense benefit for the poor man to know that when he earns a dollar the money in which he is paid possesses full purchasing power.
But to complete the blessing the silver question needs also to be settled, and the fraudulent and depreciated dollar of the fathers requires also to be discarded.
The California Gold Quarter Dollar Coin shows with an image of the San Francisco Mint turning gold into ingots, circa 1856.