by Frank Shostak
Prior to 1933, the name “dollar” was used to refer to a unit of gold that had a weight of 23.22 grains. Since there are 480 grains in one ounce, this means that the name dollar also stood for 0.048 ounce of gold. This in turn, means that one ounce of gold referred to $20.67.
Now, $20.67 is not the price of one ounce of gold in terms of dollars as popular thinking has it, for there is no such entity as a dollar. Dollar is just a name for 0.048 ounce of gold. On this, Rothbard wrote,
No one prints dollars on the purely free market because there are, in fact, no dollars; there are only commodities, such as wheat, cars, and gold.
Likewise, the names of other currencies stood for a fixed amount of gold. The habit of regarding these names as a separate entity from gold emerged with the enforcement of the paper standard.