BOLIVIA, Bank Potosi, 1 boliviano, 1.1.1894


BOLIVIA, Bank Potosi, 1 boliviano, 1.1.1894, Face: naked child kneeling before bookshelf, Back: Indians & llamas, unsigned remainder, P-S231, Unc

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Private banks were licensed to issue paper money in the later 19th century, the government outsourcing a piece of what would otherwise be public debt.

The story of colonial Bolivia was the mining of silver, which enriched the rich colonialists and no one else. The silver output declined in the 19th century, about the time private banks started making paper money. Political instability prevented social development. The government didn’t get into the supporting of public debt with paper money until 1902.

For organizational purposes, banknote collectors tend to make a distinction between national issues and local issues. The Standard Catalog of World Paper Money has a volume dedicated to “specialized” issues, where about 20,000 items are listed. A “complete” catalog would likely have at least 10 times that number. The Standard Catalog numbers for “specialized” notes are designated P-S. There are special catalogs for various series such as German and Austrian notgeld, former Soviet Union, etc.

Paper money, meaning the promise of a government to pay a set amount, and the paper promise allowed to circulate at will, was probably first used in China in the 12th century AD. At that time the merchants and governments of Europe were just writing letters to each other about what they owed.