Monday, April 27, 2009

The Origin of the Dollar Sign ($)

The quote of the week comes from Chapter 20 in the book Atlas Shrugged title "The Sign of The Dollar". This stuck out to me while I was reading it and thought it was interesting enough that I had to do a little research about the origin of the dollar sign and what it stands for. What I came across is since the symbol is more recent than the name, and the origins of the latter are well understood, one might expect that the origins of the sign would also be known for certain particularly when the origin of the British pound sign, £, which is far older, is well-established. However that is not the case with regard to the dollar. There seem to be a few theories of the origin's of the $ sign. I like the theory that Ayn Rand uses in Atlas Shrugged even though sounds like the symbol was already in use before the formation of the United States.

Dagny sees "the sign of the dollar" imprinted on Kellogg's box of cigarettes--costing five cents in a pure gold standard. She asks what the dollar sign stands for and Kellogg's answer is:

The following is an excerpts from Atlas Shrugged, © Copyright, 1957, by Ayn Rand.

"The dollar sign? For agreat deal. It stands on the vest of every fat, piglike figure in every cartoon, for the purpose of denoting a crook, a grafter, a scoundrel—as the one sure-fire brand of evil."

He goes on to say

"It stands—as the money of a free country—for achievement, for success, for ability, for man's creative power—and precisely for these reasons, it is used as a brand of infamy. It stands for the initials of the United States."
"Do you know that the United States is the only country in history that has ever used its own monogram as a symbol of depravity? Ask yourself why. Ask yourself how long a country that did that could hope to exist, and whose moral standards have destroyed it. It was the only country in history where wealth was not acquired by looting, but by production, not by force, but by trade, the only country whose money was the symbol of man's right to his own mind, to his work, to his life, to his happiness, to himself."

I am in total agreement with Rand on everything except I have to say that some wealth was acquired by force in the days of slavery, but will let Walter Williams talk about this one. I do feel it stands for achievement, for success, for ability, for man's creative power, along with the symbol of man's right to his own mind, to his work, to his life, to his happiness, to himself.  I also feel that the media/hollywood uses it as a symbol of depravity.

If you would like to find out more on the origins of the dollar sign check out the wiki page.

If you liked this, read older post of Quote of the Week

What theory do you think? Leave a comment


  1. I'm not sure what I think about the today's quote. It's definitely thought provoking. I'm going to have to give it some time to sink in I think!

  2. Interesting! I'm fascinated by currency and all the old school deets on 'em. Enjoyed this one.

  3. Baker - A worldly view of this post would say that I am greedy and just want all the money for myself. Is this why your not sure what to think about it? I still believe that the greatest reason for creating wealth is to be able to help out those in need and to make a change in this world.

    This is a great article I read recently:

    "Believing money was evil led me to act horrible and feel terrible. I believe millions of people still hold this belief today and it binds them in the chains of servitude and criminality. The envy this belief creates results in hatred, anger, crime, and a host of financial and social problems.

    By hating the wealthy, I thought I was fighting evil, but I wasn’t – I became evil."

  4. Money is a weird thing, we all need it, we envy those with more of it, but the more you get the more problems come with it.

    That's why I think the comment that holds the most truth in the US is the "pursuit of happiness".

  5. It is man's intent that is evil not the money itself. If a man is good, his money will do good things. If a man is bent on bad intent, his money will follow suit.

  6. Just linked to this blog post on my Facebook for the AS quote. Thank you for that. Whenever I hear people make comments like yours regarding slavery in this country, I always think to myself, "Am I the only one that has heard of the Civil War?" Yes, slavery was an unsustainable contradiction of the basic premises of this country and we fought the bloodiest war of our history to rid ourselves of it.