What I Took as Change Yesterday

By Andrea Starr | October 26, 2019

Utah Goldback
Actual Size: 2⅝” by 4½”

I took in change something new or, if you prefer, something very old. It is actually something very old in concept, ancient even, but in a new form.

I accepted a Utah Goldback bill as change in a transaction. It looks like a sheet of mylar with a picture and printing on one side only. The sheet or note contains within it 1/1,000th of an ounce of pure gold. Gold’s spot price is running at about $1,500 per ounce these days, so, doing the math: $1,500/1,000 would have a spot value of about $1.50. Gold in a measured amount, in a durable form, such as a coin, or such as this note, would have a higher than spot value. Say about $2.50.

What Is Money?

For something to be “a money,” it must possess certain fundamental characteristics.

Money must be durable. One might be glad to take something perishable in trade, such as a pound of hamburger, a bushel of apples, or some pretty posies, but those things could not constitute a money. They are not durable. Those items might function as a “currency,” or something that passes “current,” which is to say something transitory or perishable whose value is in the moment.

Money must be fungible. That is to say, every unit of money should be equivalent to every other unit of money. One 1/1,000th of an ounce of gold is the same as every other 1/1,000th of an ounce of gold.

Money must be valuable. That is to say, it must be intrinsically valuable in and of itself. Beads and trinkets, cowrie shells, Monopoly money, or other printed pieces of paper might pass as currency, but lack the intrinsic value of a money.

(We should have a nice chat sometime about Bitcoin. I believe it to be a currency, but not a money. Am I wrong?).

Money must be portable. A ton of copper or iron is durable, fungible, and even valuable, but it is not very portable, not without heavy equipment anyway. A high value to weight (or bulk) ratio is necessary for portability.

Money must be acceptable. If nobody will accept your purported money in an exchange, as I did with this Utah Goldback, then it will not function as a money.

Why This Money?

Farmington Bank Two-Dollar Bill
Private currency: a Farmington Bank $2 bill, with its promise to “pay to the bearer TWO DOLLARS on demand,” i.e. pay the bearer $2 in gold or silver money from its vault (Farmington, NH, 1861)

The Federal Reserve Note (FRN) with which we are all familiar is not a money, it is a currency. It fails to be a money on account of not being intrinsically valuable and not being durable, i.e., not retaining its value over time (due to overprinting). It is a piece of paper backed only by legal tender laws.

For that reason, the FRN is frequently termed a “fiat” currency, from the Latin word fiat: “let it be done,” “by command,” or, if you will, “abra-ca-dabra.” Once upon a time it was backed by gold, but severed its last tenuous link to intrinsic value in 1973. That has allowed since for a steady devaluation through overprinting. The current dollar lacks even the spending power of 5¢ from 1973. That is where your “vanishing middle class” went. And the presses are running still.

The State of Utah passed its Utah Legal Tender Act in 2011. This allowed for gold and silver to be used again in Utah as an additional legal tender. The State of Utah may pay its citizens in gold or silver, and its citizens may pay the State of Utah, or pay each other, in gold or silver. Additional taxation, based upon gold or silver having been classed as commodities, rather than money, was cancelled.

And now Utah Goldback has arisen as a privately produced money, which was the original and proper state of things. It satisfies the provisions of the Utah Legal Tender Act. Having gold embedded within it, it will function also as a reliable store of value, as opposed to inflationary fiat currencies. (NH legislators take note!).


Goldback. (2019). One Goldback: $2.60. Retrieved from goldback.com/

UPMA. (2019, July 24). Welcoming the Utah Goldback. Retrieved from www.upma.org/newsroom/2019/7/24/welcoming-the-utah-goldback

Tucker, Jeffrey A. (2012, February 7). It’s a Jetson’s World: 28. Halloween and Its Candy Economy. Retrieved from mises.org/library/28-halloween-and-its-candy-economy

Wikipedia. (2019, October 12). Fiat Money. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiat_money

Wikipedia. (2019, October 10). List of Community Currencies in the United States. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_community_currencies_in_the_United_States

Wikipedia. (2019, August 23). Utah Legal Tender Act. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utah_Legal_Tender_Act

The Year of the Squirrel

By Andrea Starr | September 18, 2018

You may have noticed the unusually large numbers of squirrels around us. Sadly, many are seen as large numbers of squirrel roadkill.

What on earth is happening? A number of newspaper articles, radio broadcasts, television segments have tried to answer that question.  In sum, the past two years of high acorn density have produced a rodent population boom, leading to a rise in traffic-related squirrel fatalities as the youngsters grow up and move out.

For more detail, The Exchange’s particularly informative and interesting radio broadcast from September 10 is worth a listen.  (In Appreciation of Squirrels (57:16), from NH Public Radio (NHPR)). It seeks to explain it all: acorns, squirrels, crows, foxes, coyotes, and even bears.


Concord Monitor. (2018, August 30). From fruit thieves to road kill, squirrels are everywhere this summer. Retrieved from https://www.concordmonitor.com/squirrels-acorns-road-kill-nh-19800800

Concord Monitor. (2018, September 7). No Avoiding the Influx of N.H. Squirrels. Retrieved from https://www.concordmonitor.com/squirrel-hunting-20010236

The Exchange (NHPR). (2018, September 10). In Appreciation of Squirrels & The Latest on Emerald Ash Borer. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/podcasts/381443862/the-exchange

Farmers’ Almanac. (2018, September 11). What’s Going On With All The Dead Squirrels? Retrieved from https://www.farmersalmanac.com/dead-squirrels-32602

Frohn, Jim (UNH Extension). (2017). Acorns, Acorns Everywhere. Retrieved from https://extension.unh.edu/blog/acorns-acorns-everywhere

Greene, Britta (NHPR). (2018, August 29). It’s a Banner Year for Rodent Roadkill. Here’s Why. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/podcasts/381443862/the-exchangehttp://www.nhpr.org/post/its-banner-year-rodent-roadkill-heres-why

Manchester Union-Leader. (2018). ‘Never seen this many’ dead gray squirrels says NH Fish and Game biologist. Retrieved from http://www.unionleader.com/animals/never-seen-this-many-dead-gray-squirrels-says-nh-fish-and-game-biologist-20180830

WMUR. (2018, August 30). Yes, there have been a lot of dead squirrels on NH roads. Retrieved from https://www.wmur.com/article/yes-there-have-been-a-lot-of-dead-squirrels-on-nh-roads/22863676

The View from Mt. Major

By Andrea Starr | September 7, 2018

Mount Major (elevation 1,785 feet) is a mountain located in nearby Alton, NH, south of Lake Winnipesaukee and northeast of Straightback Mountain in the Belknap Range.

Mount Major’s parking lot and trailhead are about 20 miles from the intersection of NH Route 75 and NH Route 125 in Milton. Proceed on NH Route 75 towards and through Farmington to NH Route 11. Turn right on NH Route 11 towards Alton. Take the third exit off the Alton rotary and continue on NH Route 11 through Alton village, Alton bay, and Alton. The Mount Major parking lot will be on the left, although it is not uncommon for overflow parking to take place on either side of the road.

There is a signboard with trail maps and several porta-potties in the parking lot. Dogs are permitted on the trails (clean up after them). Good shoes with some ankle support would be useful, a canteen or water bottle too. A light jacket, tied around the waist or stowed in a small backpack, might be welcome at the top. It can be cooler there, due to brisk winds.

The Mount Major Trail (blue blazes) ascends the mountain from the north side. Its length is 1.5 miles and rises about 1,100 feet. It has a gradual rise for about half the trip. Turn left (with the blue blazes) at the Brook Trail junction. This is a popular hike – you will not be lonely.

The Brook Trail (yellow blazes) continues around the base of the mountain to where it connects to the Boulder Loop Trail (orange blazes). The initial stretch of Mount Major Trail (blue blazes), then continuing on the Brook Trail (yellow blazes), and finally the Boulder Loop Trail (orange blazes) make a giant loop around the base of the mountain without ever ascending it.

Continuing up the Mount Major Trail (blue blazes) towards the summit, the ground rises more steeply for the remaining half. As you approach the summit, with still a ways to go, you will break through the trees briefly onto a smooth ledge where Lake Winnipesaukee can first be seen in the direction of Moultonboro. It’s a great photo appetizer.

Excelsior! The summit is an open ledge-y area. It has the remains of a small stone shelter hut (Mr. Phippens’ Hut) there. Vandals destroyed it. (Now a monument to crass stupidity). Its roof is gone and large granite slabs have been toppled from its walls on one side. They do function well as picnic benches.

There is a panoramic view of Lake Winnipesaukee, stretching from Moultonboro bay in the northwest, across the White Mountains towards the north, Wolfeboro village along the lake’s northern side, and the long, thin Alton Bay to the northeast. The mountains are reflected in the lake. Fantastic!

You might just pick out Milton in that general direction with the aid of a topographic map. (I forgot mine). Even the eternal center-insert map from the Weirs Times or Cocheco Times would help identify features, such as the many islands and bays in the lake below.

Alton Bay to the northeast (Andrea Starr)

The MV Mount Washington may be seen traveling on the lake if your visit happens to coincide with its schedule.

Facing away from the lake, you will see the higher Straightback Mountain (elevation 1,911 feet). Mount Major’s peak is elevated 188 feet above the connecting “col” or ridge between them. There are trails to its peak also, more difficult ones, but that is another story. This view is a vast expanse of beautiful rolling wooded ridges and valleys.

One may return the way one came or depart instead down the opposite side (blue blazes still) to the Boulder Loop Trail (orange blazes) and along it back to the parking lot.


Belknap Range Trails. (n.d.). Belknap Range Trails. Retrieved from belknaprangetrails.org/mt-major/blue-trail/

Collins Dictionary. (2018). Excelsior. Retrieved from www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/excelsior

Wikipedia. (2018, September 8). Col. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Col

Wikipedia. (2018, February 3). Mount Major. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Major