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What is a Confederate Dollar?

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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Images By: n/a, Mtrommer
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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The confederate dollar was the currency of the Confederate States of America. It was used only during the civil war and rapidly lost value over the course of the war. While the currency no longer has any value as money, it is often considered a collectible item, having value in a historical sense. During the period in which the confederate dollar was used as currency, counterfeiting was a major problem. Today, both the genuine and fake versions of the confederate dollar are valuable to collectors.

In April of 1861, the confederate dollar became the currency of the Confederate States of America. The bills were printed in a variety of designs, featuring scenes of black slaves, historical figures, and mythical gods. Later bills featured prominent Southerners. There were large variations in the scenes depicted and the kind of paper used, which left the confederate dollar very vulnerable to counterfeiting.

Counterfeiting was easy because of the vast variety of bills. One way in which the bills were protected against counterfeiting is that, except for the 50 cent notes, they were each signed by two people. This did not, however, do much to stop the rampant counterfeiters. Not only was a signature easy to forge, but also most of the notes were signed by one of the many women working as clerks specifically to sign the bills for either the Register or Treasurer.

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While counterfeiting certainly added to the problems facing the confederate dollar, the primary reason it failed was that it relied on faith in the South's ability to win the war and remain a nation. Inflation made the bills worthless. For example, a small amount of soap could cost up to 50 confederate dollars. Had the South won the war, it is possible that the currency could have been salvaged or never would have so gravely failed at all.

In addition to paper dollars, some coins also existed. These were rare due to the need for precious metals to fund the war. Many of the original dies used to make the coins exist today in institutions such as the Smithsonian Museum.

The fourteenth amendment of the United States of America formally states that the currency of the Confederacy shall not be recognized. Despite their null states as money, bills in particularly good condition and of a highly rare variety can be worth many times the amount printed on the bill. The best way to identify the value of any particular bill is to consult a professional coin-collecting book. Collectibles are primarily valuable only to people who want them, but as long as there is interest in history, it is likely that confederate bills will have some worth.

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