The Efficiency of Private E-Money-Like Systems: The U.S. Experience with State Bank Notes
Warren E. Weber
CenFIS Working Paper 15-01
In the United States prior to 1863, each bank issued its own distinct notes. E-money shares many of the characteristics of these bank notes. This paper describes some lessons relevant to e-money from the U.S. experience with state bank notes. It examines historical evidence on how well the bank notes—a privately issued currency system with multiple issuers—functioned with respect to ease of transacting, counterfeiting, safety, overissuance, and par exchange. It finds that bank notes made transacting easier and were not subject to overissuance. However, counterfeiting of bank notes was widespread, bank notes were not perfectly safe, and notes of different banks did not exchange at par and rates of exchange were volatile. The paper also examines how bank notes were regulated and supervised and how that regulation and supervision affected the functioning of the system. The U.S. experience with state bank notes suggests that a privately issued e-money system can operate efficiently but only with appropriate government intervention, regulation, and supervision to minimize counterfeiting and to promote safety and par exchange.
JEL classification: E41, E42, E58
Key words: Bank notes, E-money, financial services