Paul Revere and Colonial Currency

Massachusetts_12_pence_1776_frontDuring the American Revolution, the Continental Congress issued paper money to fund the Continental Army and the war effort in general. This money was known as Continental currency, or Continentals. It came in very weird denominations, ranging between 1/6 of a dollar and $80. Newly freed from British restrictions, the individual states began printing their own money as well, which led to a kind of currency free-for-all in the Revolution years.

Paul Revere was involved (as an engraver) in the printing of the first Massachusetts currency, used early on to finance the Army. He later was commissioned to design and engrave the plates for the official Continental currency. Revere’s role as engraver meant that he was not responsible for the production of the paper for the currency – this is where the local paper mills come in.

Continental currency depreciated quickly and was almost worthless by the end of the war. This was due to a combination of overprinting, complete lack of cooperation between the states and the Congress, and a very successful British counterfeiting effort. This extreme depreciation was a large part of why the US Constitution denied individual states the right to print money.


Paul Revere Heritage Project, “Revolutionary War.”

Wikipedia, “Early American currency.”

One Response to “Paul Revere and Colonial Currency”
  1. jodi daynard says:

    I’m confused as to the reasoning why this bill says that the bearer may get redeemed five years in the future…can you explain? Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: