Learn the value of a dollar at 6 Web sites

The Philadelphia Inquirer

We’re tending to use checkbooks less and less as money goes more and more digital. These sites look at the history of currency, how we trade it, and what it means to our souls.

Moola history

PBS’s Nova site includes this brief history of money, which starts with prehistory bartering. It dates the first bank notes to 118 B.C., with the appearance of leather money in China. The phrase “paying through the nose” is traced to about A.D. 850, when the Danes allegedly slit the noses of tax delinquents. You thought the IRS was tough. go.philly.com/currency2

Working currency

Money in some respects is an abstraction of wealth, and of work. How do we all agree on its value? This series at the HowStuffWorks site helps explain the way societies understand currency as units of purchasing power. Check out the $100,000 bill pictured at go.philly.com/currency3. It was used in the 1920s by Federal Reserve Banks, but was never put into general circulation. go.philly.com/currency4

Currency converter

Check out today’s exchange rate for the dollar against the euro, the Vietnam dong, the Thai baht, the kronor, and other currencies at the XE site, which facilitates foreign money payments for businesses and individuals. It also has travel links. A newsletter will keep you on currency apps for the iPhone and other mobile devices. www.xe.com/ucc

If you need to know what the dollar was worth in euros a week ago or last year, you can do that at this page at Oanda. go.philly.com/currency5

Money psych

From a visit to Las Vegas, writer Michael Ventura discourses on the culture of money, and how Americans in particular view it with lust and loathing, in this article from Psychology Today. The introduction tells us that one conclusion Ventura drew was that the “American Dream has come to mean an ideal of prosperity, not of liberty.” go.philly.com/currency6