This nontechnical, somewhat plodding primer of monetary history tries to snare the general reader rather than the numismatist (though the appendix on important collections is a lure for him). Starting with colonial ""commodity currency"" such as tobacco and wampum, the author explains the origin of the dollar (from the German word, thaler, meaning coin), the shaping of a national system of coinage, the coming of the Federal Reserve, and the contemporary ""gold management standard."" It's an issue-filled story--from the feuds between the ""hard"" and ""soft"" money advocates to the upheavals of the Civil War, to the new quiet face placed on money controversies by the directors of the Federal Reserve. Massey explains the economics of mercantilism but slights Keynesian theory and the international implications of American monetary policy. He bills his book as a ""history of the United States as it is reflected in its coinage."" But it's a lightweight treatment, adequate only on domestic issues.