A Historical Note

Guess what I found on Ebay. Money! But not just any money. It’s a 1923 one dollar bill. Spent $30 but I think it’s well worth it . I scanned both sides of it below right. Click to enlarge.

13_06_1923banknote1dollarThe face value is a dollar, meaning worth the same as a loonie if I decide to spend it. But back in the 1920’s $1 could actually buy approximately $13 worth of stuff in today’s dollars. Interesting to see the effects of inflation over many decades.  The market price of this banknote today is $38 according to one banknote pricing guide online. Since its value appreciates faster than inflation, this banknote is sort of a long term investment in a way. Returns aren’t great but at least it’s tax free.

This is by far the oldest thing I now own lol. People over the years have exchanged this particular piece of paper for food, services, and other goods. It’s still in fine condition but the fact that it’s been well circulated gives it character 😀 During the economic boom known as the roaring 20s it could have been used to start a million dollar business. During the great depression when the unemployment rate was over 20% perhaps this dollar was used to buy food for a starving family so they could have something to eat that day. Who knows how many countless hands have touched this banknote, maybe even someone famous. It’s probably traveled around the whole country, and now it’s with me.

The 1923 banknotes were eventually replaced by a new design in 1935 but during it’s time of circulation the world was a very difference place. Black and white movies like “Metropolis” were the pinnacle of cinema, even though they had no sound, lol. Jazz was the hippest music to listen to. And the first radio station to broadcast programs in all of North America was a Canadian station in Montreal. Women also fought and won their right to vote. Before this period in time women couldn’t even hold public office (appointed positions.) Here’s a look at what life was like in the 1920s. 13_06_1920style

  • Domestic refrigerators were invented (how on earth did people keep their food fresh before that?)
  • Average annual income was $1,200.
  • The average house in the US cost $8,000.
  • The average automobile was $500 (no a/c though)
  • The Dow Index had one of the best bull market runs ever, (over 200% return between 1922 to 1929)
  • Life expectancy was about 55 years old (people in their 20s like myself would be considered middle aged haha)
  • The US only had 1/3rd of the population it has today.

This is why I love personal finance. You learn so much about history, culture, and get exposed to all sorts of cool stuff like old paper money.

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06/23/2013 7:24 am

That’s so cool! I’m jealous of your find 🙂 I used to have a $2 bill that I used as a bookmark as a kid when they first introduced the toonies, and I know my grandfather used to have a $1 bill as well. I love your little history of the year as well 😀

06/23/2013 7:37 am

Some would say things were simpler then. I think we always think life was easier in the past. It isn’t (wasn’t)! I think now is much more interesting and exciting, but that is from an older perspective.

BTW, I have Indian Head (mostly mid 1800s) pennies from my Dad. I am just happy to have something from him as a connection.

06/23/2013 4:53 pm

Going to start having to refer to you as the collector soon \-U-/. Interesting math though and food for thought about the times… 1200 income to 8K for a house. Lets keep the same ratio 60K income to 400K for a house… not to far off… Funny how we always say things were cheaper back then eh? Yep it was cheaper, but math tells me it really cost about the same. Too bad our society is not a simple as back then though with all these widgets available to us from all over, not to mention that we need to keep replacing things as they really are “cheaper’ maybe not in money, but rather in quality. – Cheers.

Thomas | Your Daily Finance
06/24/2013 3:01 am

Nice pick up! I would have paid that price for it as well. I like getting those and putting them away for the kids to have later. People forget that though things were cheaper people made a lot less and I could say did a lot harder work. Depending on how far you go back most families only had one income and still managed to get by. Where you looking for that 1923 bill online or just happened across it on eBay?

Debt and the Girl
06/24/2013 6:03 pm

How interesting. Are you big into antique things? I have never been too much into antiques but I have always loved learning about history. Weird, huh?

06/25/2013 3:59 pm

Really neat. I’ve always thought that money was fun (having it, saving it, spending it, looking at it). It’s also interesting to think about how much things cost 50 or 100 years ago. My grandmother was born in 1933, so when I look at those photos I add 10 years and think about what my great-grandparents would be wearing, driving and doing.

Searching for Happy
Searching for Happy
06/25/2013 7:46 pm

Interesting acquisition! I tend to go to coins over bills, but I understand the urge. It’s sad that the price relationships have gone so far out of whack since then!

07/04/2013 4:24 pm

That note is awesome. Also the photograph. It brings nice nostalgia feeling about that time. I wonder how the life looked like back then, what people felt, what they worried and what they dreamed of. Sometimes I wish we could travel in time.

11/22/2013 9:36 am

I love the artwork on the old paper money. Like the old stamps.

Does anyone know what the building on the back of that $1 bill is? It looks like something from a science fiction novel.

PJohn Ross
PJohn Ross
05/31/2015 11:44 am

Great deal for $30.00, the condition alone makes the bill worth much more. than $38.00 to an avid collector. I’m envious.