Ever wondered about the history of currency? Money’s evolved from quite a ‘rich’ past....let’s take a look at some fun, currency-related facts taken from our latest infographic!
Barter initially existed before money came into play; this was an exchange in which people traded items for other items. Commodities such as salt, seeds, weapons, food, cattle, tools, clothes and anything else of value were traded amongst people. Livestock such as camels, sheep, and cows were commonly accepted currency by around 10,000 years ago. Grain was also commonly used as currency.
Around 5,000 years ago, grain became a standardized currency in Mesopotamia, with the “shekel” being the standard measurement of weight. The value of a “shekel” of grain later became a “shekel” worth of bronze, copper, and silver. All currency at this time was a method of simplifying the barter process to ensure efficiency. Currency eventually evolved to make trading easier.
Shells and other symbolic currency like beads were prevalent in North America. The largest “currency” known are the “Rai Stones,” is still used by some as currency by the indigenous people of Micronesia. Around 1200 B.C., shells (due to their relative rarity) were adopted as currency in China, and societies around the world began embracing them as a way of storing value. Eventually, the beauty of polished jewels and precious metals give them inherent value.
Sometime between 1000 to 600 years ago, the Chinese society was credited with producing the world’s first coins made from non-precious metals. Around 700 BC, production of silver and gold coins were underway in ancient Lydia (currently modern-day Turkey). Production of gold and silver coins also originated around the same time in Greek cities on the coast, and decorated with printed images of gods, animals, and emperors.
In 118 B.C, “leather money” was a durable and efficient means of currency, used in China before the onset of paper money. This first kind of banknote was traded for other goods in the form of one-foot-square pieces of white deerskin with colorful borders. This was an important step towards replacing heavy coins with a lighter representative.
China developed paper money in the year 806 A.D., but wasn’t widely accepted until 960 AD. This was followed by centuries of finding balance between supply and demand for the currency. Paper money became widespread around the world because it is so easy to carry and trade. Cheques, or checks, are essentially an instruction to a bank to pay the bearer a specified amount. It can be thought of as a customizable bank note, as bank notes were originally instruction to pay a predetermined amount to the bearer. Cheques enabled a person to spend their money without carrying it around with them.
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In recent years, cheques and bank notes have widely been replaced by debit cards. This form of currency are in the form of plastic cards, similar in appearance to credit cards. that enables consumers to electronically access their cash in the bank or via ATM’s.
The Diner’s Club Card was the first credit card, accepted among restaurants in the New York area. It was a cardboard card with an account number printed on it. Eventually, credit cards came into play and were made of plastic as we know them today. A credit card essentially allows you to borrow money at the moment you’d like to spend it. Credit cards have to be repaid with real currency.
Polymer banknote have been in use in Australia since 1992. In the endless effort to thwart counterfeiters, holograms were eventually introduced to paper currency in some nations. Security holograms are very difficult to forge. Since the 1980’s, some nations have experimented with polymer currencies, or “plastic money.”
With the advent of debit cards and credit cards, PayPal was able to popularize payments on the World Wide Web. PayPal is not a bank, as they do not participate in “fractional-reserve banking” like banks do. PayPal actually has your money, not just a record of your depositing money. PayPal has popularized the act of using your debit or credit card to make purchases online. PayPal is not the only online payment method, but it has been the most successful.
The world’s first fully-digital currency was introduced in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto. Known as “cryptocurrency,” there are a limited number of ‘bitcoins’ that exist, which can be discovered uponj mining, which is what gives them value as currency.
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