I got this assignment when a Highlights editor read my “Texting through the Ages” article in Muse. She contacted me through this very website. (Which is why you should always have a contact link on your website.)Like the texting article, it was a ridiculous amount of research. The timeline started with prehistoric gift economies and moved through coins in the ancient world, the colonial American economy, and the development of the U.S. currency system, ending with speculation about the future of money in all of its electronicness. Two sidebars outlined the journey of a dollar bill from design to destruction, and provided a map of the $1 bill. Left out were discussions of the gold standard, debt, and access to bank accounts in developing countries. I really, really wanted to include the fascinating history of Australian currency and the U.S. Treasury’s many failed attempts at introducing a dollar coin (contrasted with Canada’s success), but I had a 1200 word limit, and something had to go.
While I was writing and researching this article, I drove my family nuts with “Did you know…?” tidbits about money. The real reason I’m a science writer is that strange trivia tends to get stuck in my head. Annoying to friends and loved ones, but an endless supply of book and article ideas!