In the United States the dollar is the unit of value, and is equal to 23.22 grains of pure gold. Therefore, when we say that an article is worth so many dollars we mean it is worth so many times as much as 23.22 grains of pure gold.
The gold coins of the United States actually contain the gold in the proportion of 900 parts gold and 100 parts alloy, and are the only form of money actually worth its face value as a commodity; therefore gold is the only money that will be accepted in a foreign country at par. The gold coins of the United States are the 20-dollar piece or double eagle, the 10-dollar piece or eagle, the 5-dollar piece or half eagle, the 3-dollar piece, the 21/2-dollar piece or quarter eagle, and the gold dollar, which has not been coined since 1890 and which is now not much in circulation but considered rare.
An estimate has been made showing there is about $7,000,000,000 in gold in use in the world, and this, if put into one place, would fill a room 64 feet long, 50 feet wide, and 20 feet high. In the banks and treasuries gold coin are piled in bags each containing $5000 and weighing 22 pounds.
The silver dollar weighs 4121/2 grains, of which 3711/4 grains is pure silver and 41.25 grains alloy. This amount of pure silver was at one time equal in value with 23.22 grains of pure gold. Of late years it has been much cheaper, and its relative value to gold is no longer 16 to 1, being determined by commercial conditions.
The half dollar, quarter dollar and dime, as well as the 5-cent nickel and the copper cent, contain still smaller proportions of silver, and are intended only for circulation in this country as representatives of the fractional parts of a dollar. They are legal tender for debts not exceeding five dollars in amount.
The standard of value are the gold coins, which stand upon their own merits as actually worth what they represent on their face. All other coins only represent their face value, being accepted throughout the land because they are by law exchangeable for the amounts for which they stand.