Seigniorage denotes the profit made by a government from issuing currency. It not only acts as a revenue source, but also impacts inflation, debt values, and monetary policy. In the digital age, its relevance extends to cryptocurrencies and their unique economic dynamics.


Seigniorage refers to the profit made by a government by issuing currency. It is essentially the difference between the face value of money and the cost to produce it.


In practice, seigniorage is calculated as the interest saved by a government through the issuance of non-interest bearing obligations in the form of currency, instead of interest-bearing obligations like treasury bonds.

Physical Seigniorage

In the case of physical money, seigniorage occurs when the production cost of a coin or banknote is lower than its face value. The government profits from the difference.

Electronic Seigniorage

In the era of electronic money, seigniorage takes a different form. It’s the interest saved by a government from the difference between interest earned on securities acquired in exchange for bank notes and the interest (if any) paid to the holders of those bank notes.

Historical Significance

Seigniorage was particularly important in the era of metallic currencies, where the value of a coin was derived from its metal content. Governments could reduce the metal content (debase the currency) to earn seigniorage.

Inflationary Impact

When a government earns significant seigniorage, it is often a result of increasing the money supply. This has potential inflationary implications.

Monetary Policy Impact

Central banks must be cautious when adjusting money supply to avoid triggering harmful inflation while managing seigniorage. It plays a role in monetary policy decisions.

Global Perspective

Seigniorage can also be seen from a global perspective where central banks of dominant currencies (like the U.S. dollar or Euro) gain seigniorage benefits due to their widespread international use.

Cryptocurrency Impact

The rise of cryptocurrencies has prompted discussions around seigniorage in the digital sphere. Some cryptocurrencies are designed to provide seigniorage returns to holders instead of a centralized government.