American Dollar - US Dollar
The American dollar is possibly the most famous currency in the entire world. Desired and coveted by many, it is a currency that has shaped international trade markets and has led to the dominance of the United States in the world of finance.
The dollar is a standard dollar system, where one dollar is worth one hundred cents. The symbol $ denotes the dollar. Cents are denoted by ¢.
The $ is said to have originated from the Spanish Coat of Arms, but there are no official records of the symbol being adopted.
Coins are issued in the form of 1 cent (called a penny), 5 cents, nicknamed the nickel, 10 cents, which is known as the dime, 25 cents, which is the quarter, 50 cents (often called the half dollar or 50 cents piece and $1. The $1 is known as the dollar coin.
Notes in circulation are the $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100.
There are currently no notes in circulation that are of over $100 in value.
The dollar is often referred to as a 'buck' or in the plural 'bucks'. It is thought that this name is derived from the fur trade, where skins of bucks may have been measured against money. Dollars were often referred to as 'greenbacks', which related to the fact that they were printed with a lot of green, particularly the $1 note.
The United States' dollar has also brought two financial terms into the language, namely 'grand' which describes 1,000 (originally used to describe 1,000 dollars, but also used in Britain, to denote £1,000).
It has also introduced the symbol k to refer to 1,000. This comes from the Latin, kilo, which also means 1,000.
The History of the Dollar
The dollar has been in use since 1792. It was created by the Coinage Act, which specified the value and denomination of the dollar.
The dollar had a set amount of gold and silver, which was then set against goods available in the economy and goods were bought and sold when compared to the amount of precious metal contained in each coin.
Surprisingly perhaps, this enabled the economy to be controlled and remain constant.
This was not the first time that money had been issued in the united States, since it had issued Continental Currency in 1775, which took the form of Spanish dollars. The Spanish dollars were in constant use, until the mid 1780's. However, after the first dollars were issued, they began to be used more than the Spanish dollars.
The dollars have changed over time, as various denominations have been issued. They were also issued by various official bodies, which is unusual for an official currency. These took different forms, such as the United States Note or the Federal Reserve Bank Note.
The dollar and its coins have been issued consistently since 1792, without interruption.
However, the dollar notes may soon be subject to change. In 2006, a judge declared that they were inaccessible to visually impaired people (the American Disabilities Act requires access for disabled people) and the notes are being re-designed to ensure better access for disabled people, particularly blind people.
The Dollar Internationally
The dollar is the most well recognised currency on earth and is the most important currency. It is used as the baseline to judge the value of items such as petrol or gold.
It is the world's most popular reserve currency. A reserve currency is the money that is stockpiled by governments, to ensure that they are in a financially strong position.
The euro has, despite the fact that it was only issued in 2002, become a very strong currency and due to the fact that the dollar has been so weak over the last few years, some experts feel that the euro may eventually take over from the dollar as the strongest currency.
The euro has increasingly become popular as a reserve currency and this is a real risk to the dollar. The dollar becomes increasingly weaker, economists believe, as the euro is the preferred option for the reserve currency. So whether the dollar can hold on to its dominance, is uncertain and realistically, only time will tell.
Because of the dominance of the US dollar, it is very easy to get hold of US dollars.
If travelling to America, you can take travellers cheques in the form of dollars or you can use your credit or debit card in an ATM machine.
Obviously as the United States is possibly the most financially developed country on earth, there are plenty of ATM machines, wherever you are in America.
It is possible to take cash in the form of Euros (if travelling from Europe) or British pounds, if from the UK. However, using an ATM machine or travellers cheques is probably the most secure means of getting cash in the US.
Safeguarding your dollars
The Untied States is a big country and there are many regional differences in terms of crime rates and safety issues. It is simply not possible to over generalise and state that people are 'always at risk' from crime, or conversely 'never' at risk.
Basically the best way of holding onto your dollars is to exercise some basic precautions, in the sense that if you are in a big city such as New York or Chicago etc, then exercise care and ensure that you are just aware of who is around and if there are some 'suspicious' looking characters, take care to ensure that your wallet and purse are safe. Generally, you are at risk from pickpockets in the larger 'tourist' areas and possibly you are more at risk from violent crime, if you take a wrong turn and end up in a shady area, which is very much 'downtown'.
So, if you stay in crowded areas and do not enter any areas that feel unsafe or threatening, then you should be ok.
New York did have quite a reputation for crime, especially in some of the tourist spots such as Central Park, but this has abated somewhat with the 'Zero Tolerance' policy adopted by the city and it is now much safer than it was.
If the worst happens and you are about to be mugged, general advice indicates that you should simply give up your wallet or items. They can be replaced, but if you are injured as a result of protesting too vehemently, then it is probably not worth it.
America is a huge country that has some amazing cities, some spectacular natural sights and even some wonderful small towns, with their own unique identity.
Due to the fact that it is so big, you can't really 'do' America in just one visit, unless you have a year or two to spare. It really is that big.
There are some standard sights that you really should try to take in. The Grand Canyon is simply breathtaking and even the most seasoned travellers are simply blown away by this majestic natural wonder. It is truly awesome.
Niagara Falls is also a natural phenomenon that is truly splendorous. It is quite busy and difficult to see without being in the midst of lots of tourists, but it is quite a sight.
New York is also a 'must see'. This is a city that is more like a country in its own right. It has everything that you could possibly wish to see in a city and of course its own iconic sights, such as the Statue of Liberty and of course the Rockefeller Centre, Central Park: even Central (Railway) station is truly an awesome building.
Other cities, such as Washington, Boston and Chicago all have a lot to offer. Then of course there are the music 'Meccas' of New Orleans and Nashville. Graceland, the home of Elvis, is also a real cultural experience. Then of course there is Hollywood and Los Angeles, where you can go celebrity spotting or just indulge in some wonderful way out therapies.
The choice of where to go is simply limited by your imagination and how much time you have and of course, what you are particularly interested in.
If you do want to travel to both the East and West coast, it is probably easier to fly, due to the distances involved. Flights tend to be relatively good value, particularly when compared to UK and European flight costs.
How far will your dollars go?
Due to the fact that throughout 2007 and 2008 the dollar is very weak, travellers to the United States will be able to get more dollars for their currency and so it is exceptionally good value for money. Whilst the dollar may recover, it is unlikely to do so for some time and even then, it will probably be a slow process. Some economists state that in effect there is a 50% sale on, in terms of the price of a holiday in the USA, so the weak dollar is not bad news for everyone!
The costs of accommodation, food and drinking are significantly lower than in the UK and Europe, so it is almost like winning twice over. The standards of service are also considerably higher than in many parts of the UK and Europe.
Shopping is also fantastic value in America and the range of what you can buy is simply stunning, so it is a real paradise for the shopaholic!
America is a world leader and as such it is an amazing place to visit and see just how it is a country that has emerged within the last two hundred years, to become a leading force on the world's stage.
Often people make sweeping generalisations about the United States and its people, but unless you actually see the country and meet a lot of its people, then you really aren't in a position to pass judgement. It is a country of stark contrasts and one which is very diverse in terms of its population and even in terms of the northern parts and the deep south.
So, whilst the dollar is so weak and the pound so strong, it is an excellent time to take advantage and get more bucks for your pounds!
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