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Mark Twain - political economy Options
pitulush
Posted: Tuesday, May 17, 2016 3:12:17 PM

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Hello all,

Can you please help me get the joke in the following paragraph from "A Tramp Abroad" by the charming Mark Twain? I'm guessing there were no 48-cent coins :D. So what exactly is he alluding to? It sounds like he bought something worth 5 cents and payed with not-quite-50-cents so he got not-quite-45-cents back. I don't know. Please help, I'm curious.

"I was taught a lesson in political economy in Frankfort. I had brought from home a box containing a thousand very cheap cigars. By way of experiment, I stepped into a little shop in a queer old back street, took four gaily decorated boxes of wax matches and three cigars, and laid down a silver piece worth 48 cents. The man gave me 43 cents change."

Mack R
Posted: Tuesday, May 17, 2016 8:36:47 PM

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So, the man went into a shop, bought four boxes of matches and three cigars for a total cost of five cents which he paid for with a 48 cent coin. He then received 43 cents in change.
One can wonder why did the man buy three cigars when he had a box of one thousand cigars with him?
Well, it seems to me the man actually wanted four boxes of matches which he needed for his box of 1000 cigars, However, with the purchase of his needed matches came three more cigars free. Oh, boy! Just what he needed. Hahaha!
Axel Bear
Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 2:33:07 AM

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In the Mark Twain text, there is no mention of a 48 cent coin...only a reference to a silver piece worth 48 cent.

Surprising is that a man in a 'little shop in a queer old back street' would have 43 cents to give as change since at the time of Twain, in the non-unified Germany the local currency was the silver 'Vereinsthaler' and later the 'Deutsche Mark' and pfennig.

Artistic licence!



Toute nation a le gouvernement qu'elle mérite: Joseph de Maistre
thar
Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 7:10:03 AM

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I suspect the city is not Frankfurt but Frankfort, Kentucky. The 'abroad' is in the meaning of 'venturing around'.

eraigames
Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 12:50:41 PM
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HAHA, us west-coasters would view traveling to Kentucky as almost traveling to another country.
hedy mmm
Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 1:41:38 PM

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Touché eraigames, I think the 'Abroad' is little further east, (like halfway around the world)....I think thar was pulling our leg, and definetly 'Artistic license' was taken, as said by AxelBear.

Mark R with all 1,003 cigars now in his possession, he can have a party with women who like to smoke cigars (for whatever the reason). I was once on a 4 hour fundraiser cruise around Manhattan, where one floor was dedicated to women cigar smokers!! The smell permeated the whole ship and there was no way you could get off!...yuck, never again! Not talking

"God graced us with today....don't waste it." hedy
Axel Bear
Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 2:53:27 PM

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thar wrote:
I suspect the city is not Frankfurt but Frankfort, Kentucky...



Thars conjecture sounds logical indeed. And there are many other places in the USA named 'Frankfort'.

However when this Twainian phrase is put back in its original context it becomes obvious that the writer is describing his European travels of 1867.

He even ventures to say that 'Frankfort has another distinction--it is the birthplace of the German alphabet; or at least of the German word for alphabet--BUCHSTABEN'.

ps. 'Frankfort' is an archaic name for what is now 'Frankfurt am Main'.



Toute nation a le gouvernement qu'elle mérite: Joseph de Maistre
pitulush
Posted: Thursday, May 19, 2016 3:46:05 PM

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Mack R wrote:
One can wonder why did the man buy three cigars when he had a box of one thousand cigars with him?
Well, it seems to me the man actually wanted four boxes of matches which he needed for his box of 1000 cigars, However, with the purchase of his needed matches came three more cigars free. Oh, boy! Just what he needed. Hahaha!


Haha :) That's a good point, why buy 3 extra cigars when he had so many already. I still think he bought them though. Maybe they were better cigars than the cheap ones he had. Or maybe he just needed the matches but they would have cost too little to justify paying for them with the silver piece. Too bad we can't ask him directly! Hope he enjoyed smoking all 1003 of them!

Axel Bear wrote:
there is no mention of a 48 cent coin...only a reference to a silver piece worth 48 cent.

Surprising is that a man in a 'little shop in a queer old back street' would have 43 cents to give as change

Very good points, I think you're right on both accounts. That must be it, I got it now!
Thank you all for contributing and especially Axel Bear! And yes, it's about Frankfurt in Germany, an old spelling.


I do have a few other kind of off-topic questions though, if any of you have got the time to answer (some of) them. What exactly is the difference between a silver piece and a coin, since both had precise values and you could use them to buy stuff? Was a "piece" round like a coin or not necessarily? Was it valuable for the silver it was made of? Was its use legal? (I googled "silver piece" images before posting my question to see if maybe a silver piece is different from a silver coin, but most of the relevant photos simply looked like coins… so I thought it's a coin for sure. Apparently I was wrong! And all the info on silver pieces seems to be about the selling of Jesus by Judas... and here I am listening to Lady Gaga because of that.) I guess what I wanna know the most is: was only that particular piece of silver that he used worth 48 cents and if so, did they measure the value on the spot in the shop - by weighing it, maybe? Or was it just one of many quasi-identical 48-cent pieces – in which case it's just like a coin (with an unusual value)? I hope this makes sense! Thanks.
Axel Bear
Posted: Friday, May 20, 2016 10:44:05 AM

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Hello pitulush,

Probably not what you are asking, but thirty pieces of silver was the price for which Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus [Gospel of Matthew 26:15 in the New Testament] Before the Last Supper, Judas is said to have gone to the chief priests and agreed to hand over Jesus in exchange for 30 silver coins, and to have returned the money afterwards since was filled with remorse.

Back in those days, silver (of varying degrees of quality/quantity and shape) was the everyday currency like money is today (still).






Toute nation a le gouvernement qu'elle mérite: Joseph de Maistre
pitulush
Posted: Saturday, May 21, 2016 4:38:00 PM

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No, no, I know that story, that's why it annoyed me that it was the only info I could find when I googled it. I first heard it in elementary school, I guess. The things they teach kids… Thanks for your effort though! Oh, and I didn't know he returned the money and then killed himself, that's new.

Apparently those 30 pieces of silver ("arginti", as we call them) were still coins ("tetradrachms" or "staters"). This I did not learn in school, I just read it now.

My question was about this part of your first answer: "there is no mention of a 48 cent coin...only a reference to a silver piece worth 48 cent". What did you mean by that? How exactly are they different?

My latest theory is that the silver piece was indeed a coin, not an American one, but a German silver one (a Vereinsthaler, a Pfennig, a Mark?) which happened to be worth, at the time, 48 American cents. Who knows if there even was such a currency rate. Is this what you meant too?

Maybe I should go ask in a numismatic forum… :D



Oh, I just noticed this second part. "Back in those days, silver (of varying degrees of quality/quantity and shape) was the everyday currency like money is today (still)."
OK. Yes, this is what I wanted to know. So they just weighed it on the spot and they were equipped to check the purity of the metal in the small shop? For every little transaction? What a hassle! :P Thanks again Axel for taking the time to respond!
Axel Bear
Posted: Sunday, May 22, 2016 2:15:31 AM

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Hi pitulush,

I don't think I have been of much help...but it is an intriguing subject.

Maybe the following is of interest:

click here



Toute nation a le gouvernement qu'elle mérite: Joseph de Maistre
pitulush
Posted: Tuesday, May 24, 2016 12:50:24 PM

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Location: Bucharest, Bucuresti, Romania
Axel Bear wrote:

I don't think I have been of much help...but it is an intriguing subject.


Oh, you're just being nice, I'm sure I've been boring everyone to tears with my questions Whistle I just get really curious about stuff, but I'll move on to the next "fascinating" thing in no time. Maybe you'll be able to help me with that one :)

Thanks for the article. I like the shape of those unique "pieces-of-eight" more than the nowadays perfectly round coins. Maybe we could switch back to those.

I also find these cool:

coin clippings (they were shaving the edges to steal the precious metal and they were able to do that since silver was soft)


ancient chinese knife coins:

ancient chinese spade coins:
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