We all know what’s meant by a Buck, but do you know where the name came from? In this article I’ll give a little insight into some of the many nicknames for American dollars.
Before the Coinage Act of 1792, the leading item used as a method of exchange in North America was animal skins. A good quality buckskin would be valued at “one buck”, while lower quality buck skins or the hides of other animals could be gathered together to make up the value of one buck.
After coins and notes came into use, the term “Buck” continued to be used and became a way to reference the dollar.
When Abraham Lincoln became president, he understood the great importance of money for the war effort. He appointed Salmon P. Chase as Secretary of the Treasury. Almost everyone, including Chase, underestimated the duration and cost of the war. When it became clear that the costs of the war were likely to be far beyond the government’s limited income, which came from tariffs and excises, an alternative had to be found. Lincoln asked to borrow from banks but the interest rates offered were so high that he refused their terms.
The notes that he would have borrowed from the banks would have been printed on only one side. In July 1861, Congress authorized $50,000,000 in “Demand Notes” to be printed, and as these had ink on both sides, including green ink on the back, the notes were called “greenbacks”.
Later legal tender and federal reserve notes inherited this as a nickname. Some elements of the notes remain similar, such as portraits of Abraham Lincoln and the bald eagle image, but other aspects differ from US currency today.
A $100 bill can be referred to as a Benjamin, since Benjamin Franklin is pictured on the bill. “C” is the Roman numeral for one hundred, and the note is sometimes also called a C-note.
A million dollars is sometimes called a “rock”. This came from several TV shows and movies. One recent example is the The Sopranos, where in one episode Tony Soprano states “So adjusting for inflation I’m looking at half a rock?” and in another episode says, “this whole thing is going to cost me close to a rock”.
Other names for the dollar include bones, Benjis (short for Benjamins), Cheddar, Paper, Loot, Scrilla, Cheese, Bread, Moolah, Dead Presidents, Cash Money, Tamales and Scratch.
In Peru, the U.S. dollar is called a Coco, after George Washington whose portrait is on the dollar note. George in Spanish is Jorge, which morphs into the nickname Coco.
What’s your favourite nickname for the Dollar?
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