Monday, March 14, 2016

Currency and Counterfeiting

Before we learned about currency, I went to the bank and got out one of everything—gold dollars, half dollars, and all the other coins and bills. I don't know if I've ever even seen one of the new $100 bills before! Certainly I've never examined one. They look very different and cool. The children were FASCINATED by all the security features on the newer banknotes.
Things like the watermarks and security strips, and the microprinting. 

Speaking of security features, we learned that Photoshop won't allow you to open a picture of any U.S. Currency in it. A message pops up saying it's forbidden. And I wasn't even planning to counterfeit anything! Hmmph. I was offended. You have to deal with the pictures above being unedited. (I am curious about how Photoshop recognizes banknotes when you TRY to open pictures of them. How does it know?!?)

I checked out a book about a famous counterfeiter from the library, called The Art of Making Money. I intended to tell the children about it after I finished it. It was really an interesting book and I learned lots of things about money as I read it, but it was also a very depressing book, and I felt so sad after reading it—just sad for the way crime (even so-called "victimless crime" like this—he sold much of his counterfeit money to drug dealers and others for 30 cents on the dollar, and then they used it to pad out their payoffs to other drug dealers, etc.) brings unhappiness to the people who engage in it. And sad for the way that cycles of crime and wickedness repeat themselves. So I didn't really end up telling the children about counterfeiting so much as more philosophical matters, but I guess that's okay. :) 

Other activities:
Coin rubbings
Looking at foreign currencies
This was fun: we tested a whole bunch of different materials to see which we thought would make the best money. We needed something not too bulky, that could be folded tightly but that also wouldn't weaken too much along the fold line; something reasonably waterproof; something that would take ink well enough to allow crisp text printing; something that wouldn't tear easily; something pocket-sized. I let the children test all the materials in water, write on them, try to rip them, etc. and then decide which materials were best for making currency out of. It was easy to see why metal for coins is so popular, and why the thin cotton fabric/paper used by the U.S. works well. Have you seen the new Canadian bills, though? We saw some when we were in Montreal last summer and they are made of actual plastic! So interesting.
Abe got out all his money (he does have a bank account, but he'd been saving up at home for quite a while since his last trip to the bank!) and lined it up so we could all ooh and aah over it. :)

More resources on currency:

I had heard of Bitcoin before and never really understood what it was or how it worked. But I wanted to. So I read a couple whole books about it, and I'm still not sure I understand it completely! But we also found some videos and graphics that helped explain the concept. It's pretty complicated, but with me explaining what I could, and watching videos, the children got the basic idea. They (especially the older boys) were really fascinated with the whole idea of creating a currency from scratch!

We found quite a few videos about how currency is actually…manufactured? Printed, I guess. This one is good. So is this one. This one was longer, but interesting. This one shows Euro coins being made.

We also watched an older movie I'd never heard of, Who's Minding the Mint. The children thought it was HI-LARIOUS. And I laughed out loud myself a couple times. It's one of those weird sixties movies like It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. And it shows money being printed! :)

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