What Was the Confederate Dollar (CSD)?

The Confederate dollar (CSD), issued in 1861, was the legal tender used by the eleven states that comprised the Confederate States of America during the U.S. Civil War. The Confederate States of America, also known as the Confederacy, used Confederate dollars to help fund the war against the Union. At the time the Civil War broke out, early in 1861, the North (the Union) held the majority of the nation's wealth. Because of this, the Confederacy faced challenges in financing its war efforts.

Key Takeaways

  • The Confederate dollar (CSD), issued in 1861, was the legal tender used by the eleven states that comprised the Confederate States of America during the U.S. Civil War.
  • The Confederate dollar was a promissory note of credit that promised the bearer compensation six months after the end of the war.
  • In contrast to the U.S. dollar (USD), the Confederate dollar had no underlying backing, nor was it pegged to any other tangible asset, such as gold.
  • As the prospects of the Confederacy winning diminished, the amount of paper money increased, and the Confederate dollar underwent depreciation.
  • When the Confederacy was disbanded as a political entity following the end of the Civil War, the money lost all existing value.

Understanding the Confederate Dollar (CSD)

The Confederate dollar, short for the Confederate States of America dollar, was the currency issued by the Confederate States of America. The notes began to be circulated before the start of the American Civil War and were used to finance the war. It is informally referred to as a "Greyback," named for the grey color of the typical uniform of the Confederate soldiers.​​​ The U.S. government, commonly referred to as the Federalists, was also issuing money to finance the war effort. These Union bills were called Greenbacks.

The Confederate dollar, first issued in April 1861, two months after the formation of the Confederate States of America, was the primary means by which the confederacy planned to finance the civil war against the United States of America. The Civil War broke out several months later, and the Confederacy was able to engage in the fighting due to the funds raised through this new currency.

In contrast to the U.S. dollar (USD), the Confederate dollar had no underlying backing nor was it pegged to any other tangible asset, such as gold. Instead, the money was a promissory note of credit, which promised the bearer compensation six months after the end of the war. In essence, Confederate dollars were loan documents for capital the bearers were loaning to the Confederate States of America, with the promise of repayment after a successful operation. 

At the beginning of the war, the Confederate dollar was accepted throughout the South as a medium of exchange with high purchasing power. As the prospects of the Confederacy winning diminished, the amount of paper money increased, and the Confederate dollar underwent depreciation. In addition, the dates of redemption for the notes were extended further into the future.

Counterfeiting of Confederate dollars became a major problem for the South. The Union states took part in this activity by printing counterfeit notes and distributing them in the South. This caused massive inflation and soaring prices, as the amount of paper money increased and the Confederate dollar underwent depreciation.

By the end of the war, the currency was practically worthless as a medium of exchange; the Confederate dollar was worth approximately $0.06 to the Federal, or Union, dollar. When the Confederacy was disbanded as a political entity following the end of the Civil War, the money lost all existing value.

Confederate Notes

The Confederacy had limited numbers of trained printers and lithographers, and most of the printing equipment on the continent was in the northern (Union) states. This lack of printing equipment led the Confederate government to create a hodgepodge of bills with varying degrees of quality.

The first four printings of Confederate notes were issued in the original capital of the Confederacy, in Montgomery, Alabama. These bills featured the highest-quality engraving and printing. When the capital moved to Richmond, Virginia, it was more difficult to find skilled engravers and printers. This resulted in a lower quality of notes produced. 

The bills featured a wide range of imagery, including slaves, naval ships, railroads, animals, Confederate politicians, and mythological Greek gods and goddesses.

Confederate notes were originally issued in 10-cent, 50-cent, $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $500, and $1,000 denominations. The Confederate dollar subdivides into 100 pennies. However, due to limited technical capabilities, only 14 different penny coins and four half-dollar coins were produced. There were 607 $1,000 Confederate States of America notes issued by the Confederacy; these notes featured images of John C. Calhoun on the left and Andrew Jackson on the right.

The Confederate Dollar’s (CSD’s) Demise

Both Federal and Confederate governments thought the war would be a short effort, with their forces easily defeating the opposition. As the war persisted and Confederate losses mounted, the Confederacy needed more war funds and continued to print currency. As with any money, the continued production of banknotes without backing will create severe inflation.

Confederate inflation spiraled out of control, and the value of the Confederate dollar plummeted. With the end of the civil war and the dissolution of the Confederate States of America, the CSD became worthless. The Confederate dollar has no value as currency today. However, surviving bills and coins have substantial significance to collectors of Confederate and Civil War memorabilia and collectors of out-of-date currencies.

Confederate Dollar FAQs

How Much Is a $1,000 Confederate Bill Worth?

The $1,000 note was only issued in 1861 and was the highest denomination issued by the Confederate government. Genuine $1,000 notes were printed on high-quality banknote paper with red silk fibers. These notes feature images of John C. Calhoun on the left and Andrew Jackson on the right, and the colors are black and green on white linen paper. The original notes were signed by hand by Alex B. Clitherall, Register, and E.C. Elmore, Treasurer of the Confederate States of America. Only 607 of these notes were printed, making them very rare. According to Coinsite.com, uncirculated examples of this note can bring about $35,000 at auction.

Are Confederate Dollars Worth Any Money?

When the Confederacy was disbanded as a political entity following the end of the Civil War, the currency lost all existing value as a medium of exchange. Confederate dollars are not accepted as legal tender anywhere. However, for collectors and dealers of obsolete currency, Confederate dollars are valuable as collectible items.

Where Can I Buy a Confederate Dollar?

Certain websites exist, including CSAnotes.com, solely for the purpose of buying and selling Confederate notes from the Civil War era.