What is 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.

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, which 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.

Understanding the Confederate Dollar (CSD)

The Confederate dollar, short for 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, were 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. As the prospects of the Confederacy winning diminished, the CSD lost value until it was worth approximately 6 cents to the Federal, or Union, dollar by the end of the war.

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 different types of varying quality and with images of Confederate politicians and mythological gods. 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.

The Confederate Dollar'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.