The United States dollar (sign:$; code: USD; also abbreviated US$ and referred to as the dollar, U.S. dollar, or American dollar) is the official currency of the United States and its territories per the United States Constitution since 1792. In practice, the dollar is divided into 100 smaller cent (¢) units, but is occasionally divided into 1000 mills (₥) for accounting. The circulating paper money consists of Federal Reserve Notes that are denominated in United States dollars (12 U.S.C. § 418  ).
Since the suspension in 1971 of convertibility of paper U.S. currency into any precious metal, the U.S. dollar is de facto fiat money. As it is the most used in international transactions, the U.S. dollar is the world's primary reserve currency. Several countries use it as their official currency, and in many others it is the de facto currencycurrency]].British Overseas Territories Caribbean he British Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands. A few countries use the Federal Reserve Notes for paper money, while still minting their own coins, or also accept U.S. dollar coins (such as the Sacagawea or presidential dollar). As of January 31, 2019, there are approximately $1.7 trillion in circulation, of which $1.65 trillion is in Federal Reserve Notes (the remaining $50 billion is in the form of U.S. notes and coins).
The U.S. dollar as a currency is often referred to as the greenback by foreign exchange traders and the financial press in other countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India.
Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution provides that the Congress has the power "To coin money". Laws implementing this power are currently codified at 31 U.S.C. § 5112 . Section 5112 prescribes the forms in which the United States dollars should be issued. These coins are both designated in Section 5112 as "legal tender" in payment of debts. The Sacagawea dollar is one example of the copper alloy dollar. The pure silver dollar is known as the American Silver Eagle. Section 5112 also provides for the minting and issuance of other coins, which have values ranging from one cent to 100 dollars. These other coins are more fully described in Coins of the United States dollar.
The Constitution provides that "a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time". That provision of the Constitution is made specific by Section 331 of Title 31 of the United States Code. The sums of money reported in the "Statements" are currently being expressed in U.S. dollars (for example, see the 2009 Financial Report of the United States Government). The U.S. dollar may therefore be described as the unit of account of the United States.
The word "dollar" is one of the words in the first paragraph of Section 9 of Article I of the Constitution. There, "dollars" is a reference to the Spanish milled dollar, a coin that had a monetary value of 8 Spanish units of currency, or reales. In 1792 the U.S. Congress passed a Coinage Act. Section 9 of that act authorized the production of various coins, including "DOLLARS OR UNITS—each to be of the value of a Spanish milled dollar as the same is now current, and to contain three hundred and seventy-one grains and four sixteenth parts of a grain of pure, or four hundred and sixteen grains of standard silver". Section 20 of the act provided, "That the money of account of the United States shall be expressed in dollars, or units... and that all accounts in the public offices and all proceedings in the courts of the United States shall be kept and had in conformity to this regulation". In other words, this act designated the United States dollar as the unit of currency
Unlike the Spanish milled dollar, the U.S. dollar is based upon a decimal system of values.
Today, USD notes are made from cotton fiber paper, unlike most common paper, which is made of wood fiber.
In the 16th century, Count Hieronymus Schlick of Bohemia began minting coins known as Joachimstalers, named for Joachimstal, the valley where the silver was mined. The German word for valley is thal, or nowadays usually Tal (cognate with "dale" in English). St. Joachim's Valley is now known as Jáchymov, in the Czech Republic (then part of the Kingdom of Bohemia). Joachimstaler was later shortened to the German Taler, a word that eventually found its way into many languages, including Danish and Swedish as daler, Norwegian as dalar and daler, Dutch as daler or daalder, Ethiopian as talari, Hungarian as tallér, Italian as tallero, and English as dollar. Alternatively, thaler is said to come from the German coin Guldengroschen
The coins minted at Joachimsthal soon lent their name to other coins of similar size and weight from other places.
The leeuwendaler was authorized to contain 427.16 grains of.75 fine silver and passed locally for between 36 and 42 stuivers. It was lighter than the large-denomination coins then in circulation, thus it was more advantageous for a Dutch merchant to pay a foreign debt in leeuwendalers and it became the coin of choice for foreign trade.
The leeuwendaler was popular in the Dutch East Indies and in the Dutch North American New Netherland Colony (today the New York metropolitan area), and circulated throughout the Thirteen Colonies during the 17th and early 18th centuries. It was also separately popular throughout Eastern Europe, where it led to the current Romanian and Moldovan currency being called leu (literally "lion").
Among the English-speaking community, the Dutch coin came to be popularly known as lion dollar – and is the origin of the English dollar. The modern American-English pronunciation of dollar is still remarkably close to the 17th-century Dutch pronunciation of daler.
By analogy with this lion dollar, Spanish pesos – with the same weight and shape as the lion dollar – came to be known as Spanish dollars. By the mid-18th century, the lion dollar had been replaced by the Spanish dollar, the famous "piece of eight", which was distributed widely in the Spanish colonies in the New World and in the Philippines. Eventually, dollar became the name of the first official American currency.
The colloquialism "buck"(s) (much like the British word "quid"(s, pl) for the pound sterling) is often used to refer to dollars of various nations, including the U.S. dollar. This term, dating to the 18th century, may have originated with the colonial leather trade. It may also have originated from a poker term.
"Greenback]" is another nickname originally applied specifically to the 19th-century Demand Note dollars created by Abraham Lincoln to finance the costs of the Civil War for the North. The original note was printed in black and green on the back side. It is still used to refer to the U.S. dollar (but not to the dollars of other countries). Other well-known names of the dollar as a whole in denominations include "greenmail", "green" and "dead presidents" (the last because deceased presidents are pictured on most bills).
The term greenback is also used by foreign exchange traders with reference to the U.S. dollar as a currency, and by the financial press in other countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India.
A "grand", sometimes shortened to simply "G", is a common term for the amount of $1,000. The suffix "K" or "k" (from "kilo-") is also commonly used to denote this amount (such as "$10k" to mean $10,000). However, the $1,000 note is no longer in general use. A "large" or "stack", it is usually a reference to a multiple of $1,000 (such as "fifty large" meaning $50,000). The $100 note is nicknamed "Benjamin", "Benji", "Ben", or "Franklin" (after Benjamin Franklin), "C-note" (C being the Roman numeral for 100), "Century note" or "bill" (e.g. "two bills" being $200). The $50 note is occasionally called a "yardstick" or a "grant" (after President Ulysses S. Grant, pictured on the obverse). The $20 note is referred to as a "double sawbuck", "Jackson" (after Andrew Jackson), or "double eagle". The $10 note is referred to as a "sawbuck", "ten-spot" or "Hamilton" (after Alexander Hamilton). The $5 note as "Lincoln", "fin", "fiver" or "five-spot". The infrequently-used $2 note is sometimes called "deuce", "Tom", or "Jefferson" (after Thomas Jefferson). The $1 note as a "single" or "buck". The dollar has also been referred to as a "bone" and "bones" in plural (e.g. "twenty bones" is equal to $20). The newer designs, with portraits displayed in the main body of the obverse (rather than in cameo insets), upon paper color-coded by denomination, are sometimes referred to as "bigface" notes or "Monopoly money".
"Piastre" was the original French word for the U.S. dollar, used for example in the French text of the Louisiana Purchase. Calling the dollar a piastre is still common among the speakers of Cajun French and New England French. Modern French uses dollar for this unit of currency as well. The term is still used as slang for U.S. dollars in the French-speaking Caribbean islands, most notably Haiti.
The symbol $, usually written before the numerical amount, is used for the U.S. dollar (as well as for many other currencies). The sign was the result of a late 18th-century evolution of the scribal abbreviation "ps" for the peso, the common name for the Spanish dollars that were in wide circulation in the New World from the 16th to the 19th centuries. These Spanish pesos or dollars were minted in Spanish America, namely in Mexico City; Potosí, Bolivia; and Lima, Peru. The p and the s eventually came to be written over each other giving rise to $.
Another popular explanation is that it is derived from the Pillars of Hercules on the Spanish Coat of arms of the Spanish dollar. These Pillars of Hercules on the silver Spanish dollar coins take the form of two vertical bars (||) and a swinging cloth band in the shape of an "S".
Yet another explanation suggests that the dollar sign was formed from the capital letters U and S written or printed one on top of the other.
The American dollar coin was initially based on the value and look of the Spanish dollar or piece of eight, used widely in Spanish America from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The first dollar coins issued by the United States Mint (founded 1792) were similar in size and composition to the Spanish dollar, minted in Mexico and Peru. The Spanish, U.S. silver dollars, and later, Mexican silver pesos circulated side by side in the United States, and the Spanish dollar and Mexican peso remained legal tender until the Coinage Act of 1857. The coinage of various English colonies also circulated. The lion dollar was popular in the Dutch New Netherland Colony (New York), but the lion dollar also circulated throughout the English colonies during the 17th century and early 18th century. Examples circulating in the colonies were usually worn so that the design was not fully distinguishable, thus they were sometimes referred to as "dog dollars".
The U.S. dollar was first defined by the Coinage Act of 1792, which specified a "dollar" to be based in the Spanish milled dollar and of 371 grains and 4 sixteenths part of a grain of pure or 416 grains (27.0 g) of standard silver and an "eagle" to be 247 and 4 eighths of a grain or 270 grains (17 g) of gold (again depending on purity). The choice of the value 371 grains arose from Alexander Hamilton's decision to base the new American unit on the average weight of a selection of worn Spanish dollars. Hamilton got the treasury to weigh a sample of Spanish dollars and the average weight came out to be 371 grains. A new Spanish dollar was usually about 377 grains in weight, and so the new U.S. dollar was at a slight discount in relation to the Spanish dollar.
The same coinage act also set the value of an eagle at 10 dollars, and the dollar at 1⁄10 eagle.
The early currency of the United States did not exhibit faces of presidents, as is the custom now; although today, by law, only the portrait of a deceased individual may appear on United States currency. In fact, the newly formed government was against having portraits of leaders on the currency, a practice compared to the policies of European monarchs. The currency as we know it today did not get the faces they currently have until after the early 20th century; before that "heads" side of coinage used profile faces and striding, seated, and standing figures from Greek and Roman mythology and composite Native Americans. The last coins to be converted to profiles of historic Americans were the dime (1946) and the Dollar (1971).
For articles on the currencies of the colonies and states, see Connecticut pound, Delaware pound, Georgia pound, Maryland pound, Massachusetts pound, New Hampshire pound, New Jersey pound, New York pound, North Carolina pound, Pennsylvania pound, Rhode Island pound, South Carolina pound, and Virginia pound.
During the American Revolution the thirteen colonies became independent states. Freed from British monetary regulations, they each issued £sd paper money to pay for military expenses. The Continental Congress also began issuing "Continental Currency" denominated in Spanish dollars. The dollar was valued relative to the states' currencies at the following rates:
- 5 shillings – Georgia
- 6 shillings – Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Virginia
- 7 1⁄2 shillings – Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania
- 8 shillings – New York, North Carolina
- 32 1⁄2 shillings – South Carolina
Continental currency depreciated badly during the war, giving rise to the famous phrase "not worth a continental". A primary problem was that monetary policy was not coordinated between Congress and the states, which continued to issue bills of credit. Additionally, neither Congress nor the governments of the several states had the will or the means to retire the bills from circulation through taxation or the sale of bonds. The currency was ultimately replaced by the silver dollar at the rate of 1 silver dollar to 1000 continental dollars.
From 1792, when the Mint Act was passed, the dollar was defined as 371.25 grains (24.056 g) of silver. The gold coins that were minted were not given any denomination and traded for a market value relative to the Congressional standard of the silver dollar. 1834 saw a shift in the gold standard to 23.2 grains (1.50 g), followed by a slight adjustment to 23.22 grains (1.505 g) in 1837 (16:1 ratio).
In 1862, paper money was issued without the backing of precious metals, due to the Civil War. Silver and gold coins continued to be issued and in 1878 the link between paper money and coins was reinstated. This disconnection from gold and silver backing also occurred during the War of 1812. The use of paper money not backed by precious metals had also occurred under the Articles of Confederation from 1777 to 1788. With no solid backing and being easily counterfeited, the continentals quickly lost their value, giving rise to the phrase "not worth a continental". This was a primary reason for the "No state shall... make any thing but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts" clause in article 1, section 10 of the United States Constitution.
In order to finance the War of 1812, Congress authorized the issuance of Treasury Notes, interest-bearing short-term debt that could be used to pay public dues. While they were intended to serve as debt, they did function "to a limited extent" as money. Treasury Notes were again printed to help resolve the reduction in public revenues resulting from the Panic of 1837 and the Panic of 1857, as well as to help finance the Mexican–American War and the Civil War.
In addition to Treasury Notes, in 1861, Congress authorized the Treasury to borrow $50 million in the form of Demand Notes, which did not bear interest but could be redeemed on demand for precious metals. However, by December 1861, the Union government's supply of specie was outstripped by demand for redemption and they were forced to suspend redemption temporarily. The following February, Congress passed the Legal Tender Act of 1862, issuing United States Notes, which were not redeemable on demand and bore no interest, but were legal tender, meaning that creditors had to accept them at face value for any payment except for public debts and import tariffs. However, silver and gold coins continued to be issued, resulting in the depreciation of the newly printed notes through Gresham's Law. In 1869, Supreme Court ruled in Hepburn v. Griswold that Congress could not require creditors to accept United States Notes, but overturned that ruling the next year in the Legal Tender Cases. In 1875, Congress passed the Specie Payment Resumption Act, requiring the Treasury to allow US Notes to be redeemed for gold after January 1, 1879. The Treasury ceased to issue United States Notes in 1971.
The Gold Standard Act of 1900 abandoned the bimetallic standard and defined the dollar as 23.22 grains (1.505 g) of gold, equivalent to setting the price of 1 troy ounce of gold at $20.67. Silver coins continued to be issued for circulation until 1964, when all silver was removed from dimes and quarters, and the half dollar was reduced to 40% silver. Silver half dollars were last issued for circulation in 1970. Gold coins were confiscated by Executive Order 6102 issued in 1933 by Franklin Roosevelt. The gold standard was changed to 13.71 grains (0.888 g), equivalent to setting the price of 1 troy ounce of gold at $35. This standard persisted until 1968.
Between 1968 and 1975, a variety of pegs to gold were put in place, eventually culminating in a sudden end, on August 15, 1971, to the convertibility of dollars to gold later dubbed the Nixon Shock. The last peg was $42.22 per ounce before the U.S. dollar was allowed to freely float on currency markets.
According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the largest note it ever printed was the $100,000 Gold Certificate, Series 1934. These notes were printed from December 18, 1934, through January 9, 1935, and were issued by the Treasurer of the United States to Federal Reserve Banks only against an equal amount of gold bullion held by the Treasury. These notes were used for transactions between Federal Reserve Banks and were not circulated among the general public.
Official United States coins have been produced every year from 1792 to the present.
- Half cent: 1⁄2¢, 1793–1857
- Silver center cent: 1¢, 1792 (not circulated)
- Ring cent: 1¢, 1850–1851, 1853, 1884–1885 (not circulated)
- Two-cent billon: 2¢, 1836 (not circulated)
- Two-cent bronze: 2¢, 1863–1873
- Two and a half cent piece: 2.5¢ (planned but not minted)
- Three-cent bronze: 3¢, 1863 (not circulated)
- Three-cent nickel: 3¢, 1865–1889
- Trime (Three-cent silver): 3¢, 1851–1873
- Half dime: 5¢, 1792–1873
- Twenty-cent piece: 20¢, 1875–1878
- Gold dollar: $1.00, 1849–1889
- Two dollar piece: $2.00 (planned but not minted)
- Quarter eagle: $2.50, 1792–1929
- Three-dollar piece: $3.00, 1854–1889
- Stella: $4.00, 1879–1880 (not circulated)
- Half eagle: $5.00, 1795–1929 (some modern commemoratives are minted in this denomination)
- Eagle: $10.00, 1795–1933 (some modern commemoratives are minted in this denomination)
- Double eagle: $20.00, 1849–1933, 2009
- Half-union: $50.00, 1877 (not circulated)
- Union (coin): $100.00 (planned but not minted)
Collector coins for which everyday transactions are non-existent.
- American Eagles originally were not available from the Mint for individuals but had to be purchased from authorized dealers. In 2006, the Mint began direct sales to individuals of uncirculated bullion coins with a special finish, and bearing a "W" mintmark. American Silver Eagle $1 (1 troy oz) Silver bullion coin 1986–present American Gold Eagle $5 (1⁄10 troy oz), $10 (1⁄4 troy oz), $25 (1⁄2 troy oz), and $50 (1 troy oz) Gold bullion coin 1986–present American Platinum Eagle $10 (1⁄10 troy oz), $25 (1⁄4 troy oz), $50 (1⁄2 troy oz), and $100 (1 troy oz) Platinum bullion coin 1997–present American Palladium Eagle $25 (1 troy oz) Palladium bullion coin 2017–present
- United States commemorative coins—special issue coins $50.00 (Half Union) 1915 Presidential Proofs (see below) 2007–present
Technically, all these coins are still legal tender at face value, though some are far more valuable today for their numismatic value, and for gold and silver coins, their precious metal value. From 1965 to 1970 the Kennedy half dollar was the only circulating coin with any silver content, which was removed in 1971 and replaced with cupronickel. However, since 1992, the U.S. Mint has produced special Silver Proof Sets in addition to the regular yearly proof sets with silver dimes, quarters, and half dollars in place of the standard copper-nickel versions. In addition, an experimental $4.00 (Stella) coin was also minted in 1879, but never placed into circulation, and is properly considered to be a pattern rather than an actual coin denomination.
The $50 coin mentioned was only produced in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (1915) celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal. Only 1,128 were made, 645 of which were octagonal; this remains the only U.S. coin that was not round as well as the largest and heaviest U.S. coin ever produced.
A $100 gold coin was produced in High relief during 2015, although it was primarily produced for collectors, not for general circulation.
From 1934 to present, the only denominations produced for circulation have been the familiar penny, nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar and dollar.
The United States Mint produces Proof Sets specifically for collectors and speculators.
- 2007 had George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison
- 2008 had James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and Martin Van Buren
- 2009 had William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, and Zachary Taylor
- 2010 had Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Abraham Lincoln
- 2011 had Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, and James A. Garfield
- 2012 had Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland (1st term), Benjamin Harrison, and Grover Cleveland (2nd term)
- 2013 had William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson
- 2014 had Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin D. Roosevelt
- 2015 had Harry S Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson
- 2016 had Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, James E. Carter and Ronald Reagan.
The first United States dollar was minted in 1794.
Dollar coins have not been very popular in the United States. Silver dollars were minted intermittently from 1794 through 1935; a copper-nickel dollar of the same large size, featuring President Dwight D. Eisenhower, was minted from 1971 through 1978. Gold dollars were also minted in the 19th century. The Susan B. Anthony dollar coin was introduced in 1979; these proved to be unpopular because they were often mistaken for quarters, due to their nearly equal size, their milled edge, and their similar color. Minting of these dollars for circulation was suspended in 1980 (collectors' pieces were struck in 1981), but, as with all past U.S. coins, they remain legal tender. As the number of Anthony dollars held by the Federal Reserve and dispensed primarily to make change in postal and transit vending machines had been virtually exhausted, additional Anthony dollars were struck in 1999. In 2000, a new dollar coin featuring Sacagawea was introduced, which corrected some of the problems of the Anthony dollar by having a smooth edge and a gold color, without requiring changes to vending machines that accept the Anthony dollar. However, this new coin has failed to achieve the popularity of the still-existing dollar bill and is rarely used in daily transactions. The failure to simultaneously withdraw the dollar bill and weak publicity efforts have been cited by coin proponents as primary reasons for the failure of the dollar coin to gain popular support.
In February 2007, the U.S. Mint, under the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005, introduced a new $1 U.S. Presidential dollar coin. Based on the success of the "50 State Quarters" series, the new coin features a sequence of presidents in order of their inaugurations, starting with George Washington, on the obverse side. The reverse side features the Statue of Liberty. To allow for larger, more detailed portraits, the traditional inscriptions of "E Pluribus Unum", "In God We Trust", the year of minting or issuance, and the mint mark will be inscribed on the edge of the coin instead of the face. This feature, similar to the edge inscriptions seen on the British £1 coin, is not usually associated with U.S. coin designs. The inscription "Liberty" has been eliminated, with the Statue of Liberty serving as a sufficient replacement. In addition, due to the nature of U.S. coins, this will be the first time there will be circulating U.S. coins of different denominations with the same president featured on the obverse (heads) side (Lincoln/penny, Jefferson/nickel, Franklin D. Roosevelt/dime, Washington/quarter, Kennedy/half dollar, and Eisenhower/dollar). Another unusual fact about the new $1 coin is Grover Cleveland will have two coins with two different portraits issued due to the fact he was the only U.S. President to be elected to two non-consecutive terms.
Early releases of the Washington coin included error coins shipped primarily from the Philadelphia mint to Florida and Tennessee banks. Highly sought after by collectors, and trading for as much as $850 each within a week of discovery, the error coins were identified by the absence of the edge impressions "E PLURIBUS UNUM IN GOD WE TRUST 2007 P". The mint of origin is generally accepted to be mostly Philadelphia, although identifying the source mint is impossible without opening a mint pack also containing marked units. Edge lettering is minted in both orientations with respect to "heads", some amateur collectors were initially duped into buying "upside down lettering error" coins. Some cynics also erroneously point out that the Federal Reserve makes more profit from dollar bills than dollar coins because they wear out in a few years, whereas coins are more permanent. The fallacy of this argument arises because new notes printed to replace worn out notes, which have been withdrawn from circulation, bring in no net revenue to the government to offset the costs of printing new notes and destroying the old ones. As most vending machines are incapable of making change in banknotes, they commonly accept only $1 bills, though a few will give change in dollar coins.
The U.S. Constitution provides that Congress shall have the power to "borrow money on the credit of the United States". Congress has exercised that power by authorizing Federal Reserve Banks to issue Federal Reserve Notes. Those notes are "obligations of the United States" and "shall be redeemed in lawful money on demand at the Treasury Department of the United States, in the city of Washington, District of Columbia, or at any Federal Reserve bank". Federal Reserve Notes are designated by law as "legal tender" for the payment of debts. Congress has also authorized the issuance of more than 10 other types of banknotes, including the United States Note and the Federal Reserve Bank Note. The Federal Reserve Note is the only type that remains in circulation since the 1970s.
Currently printed denominations are $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. Notes above the $100 denomination stopped being printed in 1946 and were officially withdrawn from circulation in 1969. These notes were used primarily in inter-bank transactions or by organized crime; it was the latter usage that prompted President Richard Nixon to issue an executive order in 1969 halting their use. With the advent of electronic banking, they became less necessary. Notes in denominations of $500, $1,000, $5,000, $10,000, and $100,000 were all produced at one time; see large denomination bills in U.S. currency for details. With the exception of the $100,000 bill (which was only issued as a Series 1934 Gold Certificate and was never publicly circulated; thus it is illegal to own), these notes are now collectors' items and are worth more than their face value to collectors.
Though still predominantly green, post-2004 series incorporate other colors to better distinguish different denominations.
Means of issue
The monetary base consists of coins and Federal Reserve Notes in circulation outside the Federal Reserve Banks and the U.S.
When the Federal Reserve makes a purchase, it credits the seller's reserve account (with the Federal Reserve).
Usually, the short-term goal of open market operations is to achieve a specific short-term interest rate target.
The 6th paragraph of Section 8 of Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution provides that the U.S. Congress shall have the power to "coin money" and to "regulate the value" of domestic and foreign coins. Congress exercised those powers when it enacted the Coinage Act of 1792. That Act provided for the minting of the first U.S. dollar and it declared that the U.S. dollar shall have "the value of a Spanish milled dollar as the same is now current".
The table to the right shows the equivalent amount of goods that, in a particular year, could be purchased with $1.
The decline in the value of the U.S. dollar corresponds to price inflation, which is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time. A consumer price index (CPI) is a measure estimating the average price of consumer goods and services purchased by households. The United States Consumer Price Index, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is a measure estimating the average price of consumer goods and services in the United States. It reflects inflation as experienced by consumers in their day-to-day living expenses. A graph showing the U.S. CPI relative to 1982–1984 and the annual year-over-year change in CPI is shown at right.
The value of the U.S. dollar declined significantly during wartime, especially during the American Civil War, World War I, and World War II. The Federal Reserve, which was established in 1913, was designed to furnish an "elastic" currency subject to "substantial changes of quantity over short periods", which differed significantly from previous forms of high-powered money such as gold, national bank notes, and silver coins. Over the very long run, the prior gold standard kept prices stable—for instance, the price level and the value of the U.S. dollar in 1914 was not very different from the price level in the 1880s. The Federal Reserve initially succeeded in maintaining the value of the U.S. dollar and price stability, reversing the inflation caused by the First World War and stabilizing the value of the dollar during the 1920s, before presiding over a 30% deflation in U.S. prices in the 1930s.
Under the Bretton Woods system established after World War II, the value of gold was fixed to $35 per ounce, and the value of the U.S. dollar was thus anchored to the value of gold. Rising government spending in the 1960s, however, led to doubts about the ability of the United States to maintain this convertibility, gold stocks dwindled as banks and international investors began to convert dollars to gold, and as a result the value of the dollar began to decline. Facing an emerging currency crisis and the imminent danger that the United States would no longer be able to redeem dollars for gold, gold convertibility was finally terminated in 1971 by President Nixon, resulting in the "Nixon shock".
The value of the U.S. dollar was therefore no longer anchored to gold, and it fell upon the Federal Reserve to maintain the value of the U.S. currency.
In 1979, President Carter appointed Paul Volcker Chairman of the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve tightened the money supply and inflation was substantially lower in the 1980s, and hence the value of the U.S. dollar stabilized.
Over the thirty-year period from 1981 to 2009, the U.S. dollar lost over half its value. This is because the Federal Reserve has targeted not zero inflation, but a low, stable rate of inflation—between 1987 and 1997, the rate of inflation was approximately 3.5%, and between 1997 and 2007 it was approximately 2%.
There is ongoing debate about whether central banks should target zero inflation (which would mean a constant value for the U.S. dollar over time) or low, stable inflation (which would mean a continuously but slowly declining value of the dollar over time, as is the case now).
Notes: 1. Mexican peso values prior to 1993 revaluation 2.
- US: Last 4 years , 2009–2012 , 2005–2008 , 2001–2004 , 1997–2000 , 1993–1996 , all available years
- Multiple countries: 2004–present 
- Australia: 1970–present 
- China: 1974–1991, 1993–1995 
- Mexico: 1976–1991 
- Canada: 1977–1991 
- 50 State Quarters
- Coins of the United States dollar
- Counterfeit United States currency
- Federal Reserve Note
- International use of the U.S. dollar
- List of the largest trading partners of the United States
- Large denominations of United States currency
- Series (United States currency)
- Strong dollar policy
- U.S. Dollar Index
- Petrodollar recycling
Other main currencies