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What Is In A Silver Dollar?

What Is In A Silver Dollar?

June 16, 2020

A lesson from a farmer boy, lemonade and a pig.

I have read aloud to our kids for years now, and in all that reading, we keep coming back to a few classic book series. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series is one of our favorites. The third book in this series, entitled “Farmer Boy” (1933), is about Laura’s eventual husband Almonzo Wilder’s childhood growing up on a farm. In this particular story, Almonzo’s father gives him a silver dollar at the local Fourth of July celebration. He is then taunted by his cousin to buy lemonade with it. The following excerpt is one of the best lessons I’ve ever seen about the value of money in a way that everyone can understand. Here is my synopsis:


“Father, will you give me a nickel for lemonade?” said Almonzo. Father looked at him a long time and pulled a silver dollar out of his pocket. He asked, “Almonzo, do you know what this is?”  Almonzo answered, “A dollar.” “Yes, but do you know what a dollar is?”  Almonzo didn’t know that it was anything but a dollar. “It’s work, Son,” Father said.  “That’s what money is; it’s hard work.” Almonzo didn’t understand at all. Father asked, “You know how to raise potatoes Almonzo?”   “Yes,” Almonzo said. “Say you have a seed potato in the spring.  What do you do with it?” “Cut it up,” Almonzo said.  “Go on,” said Father. “First you harrow the field, then you spread manure and plow it. Then you harrow again and mark the ground. Then you plant the potatoes, then plow and hoe. You plow and hoe them twice.” “That’s right, Son.  And then?” “Then you pick them and put them in the cellar,” said Almonzo. “Yes,” said Father.  “Then you pick through them all winter to sort out the small ones and rotten ones.  Then in the spring you load them on a cart and take them to town to sell them. And if you get a good price, Son, how much do you get for a bushel?” “One dollar,” answered Almonzo. “Yes,” Father said.  “That is what is in this dollar. All the work that raised a bushel of potatoes is in that silver dollar.” Almonzo looked at that round piece of money in his hand. It looked small compared to all that work. “You can have it, Son. It’s yours,” said Father.  “You can buy a baby pig with it. You could raise it, and it would raise a litter of pigs worth four, five dollars apiece. Or you can trade that dollar for lemonade and drink it up. You do as you want, Son. It’s your money.” 


I love this story because it gives money real meaning to a boy who knew a lot about hard work. Money is a representation of our time and energy, and we always have a choice about how we use it. When we really consider what our money represents, it allows us to think twice about how we spend it. Our best work is making sure it lines up with our priorities! Almonzo eventually decided to buy a pig with that dollar, and oh, the stories that follow! 

The world has different ideas for you about your money, and they can be confusing and overwhelming.  At Compass Financial Services, we are committed to providing a safe place to explore what your money means for you. Especially as we recover from this economic downturn, we stand ready and at your service. If you have a story about when you learned the value of money, we’d love to hear it. Send us a message! Thank you for choosing Compass!

Guy Leman,

Owner and Advisor at Compass Financial Services.