This is a story about money and the making thereof -- literally.

This is a story about money and the making thereof -- literally.

Or maybe it is a recitation and reminder that, although most will make their way honorably through life, some always will take the dishonest route.

People have used various items as money for thousands of years.

In early times, people traded goods with one another -- perhaps a chicken for 10 apples. With all of this trading among many people, it did not take long before carrying around all of these chickens and apples became burdensome.

The answer, of course, was to come up with something more portable to use as a substitute -- and money was born.

People across the centuries have used beads, seashells and bear claws as money -- but over time, many civilizations settled on the use of imprinted precious metals, such as gold or silver coins, to use as currency.

With the advent of paper, its use as money became common, as well.

In the history of colonial America, several varieties of coin and paper money were in common use.

The diverse colonies established by England, France and Spain each produced varieties of money and often used coinage from other countries as their own.

A Spanish gold dollar might be divided into eight gold bits and each used as legal tender. The phrase "two bits" to describe a quarter-dollar still is used by some Americans of a certain age.

With the end of the American Revolution, the newly formed United States in time settled on certain standard coins to be in common circulation; they were made of gold, silver or other metals. These coins were highly valued, as paper money had its problems.

The problems stemmed from the simple truth that, in those days, it was perfectly legal for any company, group or even individual to print its own money. If a local store printed money, it might be worth the amount stated in its town.

But a distrustful merchant in the next village down the road might accept the note at only half or three-quarters of its value.

This chaotic approach to currency exchange was not resolved until the federal government's printed money became the legal standard of the country.

While all this was taking place, much of the U.S., including the new state of Ohio, was troubled occasionally by people who had made their money the old-fashioned way: at home.

A national newspaper noted the passing of one of these folks in 1886:

"The death of Joshua D. Miner ... recalls the almost forgotten circumstances of the breaking up of the cleverest and most notorious gang of counterfeiters ever known in this country.

"Miner was the capitalist and head of the gang. He was a good-looking and gentlemanly person of extraordinary nerve and an unusual degree of shrewdness. ... He came of a family of 'crooks' and in his childhood was taught how to get money without earning it.

"When quite a young man, Miner was arrested in Ohio and sent to the penitentiary (in Columbus) for passing counterfeit money."

Upon his release, Miner traveled to New York and again began passing counterfeit money.

"After a while the atmosphere in the vicinity of his farm and sawmill became uncomfortably warm for him and he stole away, and the public heard no more of him until he was for the second time sent to the Ohio Penitentiary for passing counterfeit money. He escaped from prison and made his way out of Ohio."

Miner arrived in New York City in 1870 "with a comfortable fortune" and set about establishing a counterfeiting ring that was successful until it was broken up by federal agents in 1871.

Miner went on to establish a number of legitimate businesses until his death in 1886.

Meanwhile, other counterfeiters continued to work in Ohio.

In June 1886, a local paper reported that "considerable complaint has been made at New Straitsville in the Hocking Valley, that counterfeit silver dollars and quarters were being passed in that section. ... Last evening the (Deputy U.S.) Marshal and Col. Kiersted left Columbus and after consultation in New Straitsville, were guided into the country about nine miles ...

"The house, which was owned by a widow, was searched and a complete set of dies and engraving plates found, together with about 100 new silver dollars that had just been finished and were still warm. ... The men arrested were J. A. Brown and George Miller, alias Berry. Brown is an old man of 76 years and is said to be an expert counterfeiter."

Both men were brought to Columbus and held for trial.

These were not the first counterfeiters to ply their trade in central Ohio, and they would not be the last.

But their story might help explain why older Ohioans still might look closely at the coins in their pocket change.

Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.