Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Mechanics of How the Dollar Became the World's Reserve Currency

During WWII, I guess around the time of the Bretton Woods agreement, the US government decided to make the US Dollar the reserve currency of the world. The Treasury or Fed shipped out two types of huge boxes the size of refrigerators, Federal Reserve Boxes and Wells Fargo Boxes. Their destination were the governments/central banks of post war nations. The former were full of Federal Reserve notes and the latter were full of Federal Reserve notes, gold, and diamonds. These Federal Reserve notes were printed in exceptionally large denominations. The purpose of these contents was to serve as bank reserves for the world financial system after the war. They were never meant for general circulation.

Some boxes were lost because planes crashed in the mountains, ships sank at sea, or were captured. Several of these have been found over the years, some legitimate and many fake. People have tried to cash these in, mostly unsuccessfully.

Supposedly the Federal Reserve has seven men who are assigned the task of dealing with these as they come to light. Redeeming them is a complicated process. You cannot just fly these into America on a commercial plane or they will be seized. They have to be brought into the US via private aircraft.

If redeemed, they are currently being redeemed for 2% of face value, it used to be higher, 10%! But this still results in a huge amount of Federal Reserve Notes, a few billion worth. And they won't just hand you the cash, they will fund a charity.

The reason why the government does not just ignore the whole issue is because of embarrassment. They are embarrassed that these boxes are out there and still circulating and getting attention. I guess payments are hush money!

The problem with such treasure hunts, even if people find the high value notes, is that they rely on the U.S. Treasury or Federal Reserve to pay up at the end. Not a likely scenario. They are worth the same as all other Federal Reserve Notes in the end... worthless paper, zero.

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