A Brief History of Money – Part 1

The history of money is a long and fascinating tale. We take a brief look at some interesting milestones.

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First Money: 40 000

Archeologists have found evidence of cash currency dating back as far as 40 000 years during the upper Paleolithic period. While bartering is widely held to be more common, such archeological finds suggest money has been around a lot longer than most of us believe.

Money Evolves: The Coins of Babylon

One of the oldest known forms of ‘money’ is the Shekel which originated in Mesopotamia somewhere between 3000 – 2000 BC. Babylonians used this metal money to simplify the exchange of goods and services.

Various metals such as copper, iron, gold, silver, lead and even meteorites have served as crude forms of coin and metal coins are still used around the world.

Shell Money: 3000 years ago

In Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia Cowry shells were widely used as far back as 1200 BC. Mother-of-pearl was another widely used currency used in the Americas.

The popularity of ocean-borne currency is also found in the form of whale teeth in the Fijian islands.

In North America wampum, tubular shell beads that have been made into strings or woven into belts was a popular currency of trade and was used as late as the mid-19th century.

Minted Money: The Stamped Coin

One of the earliest known minted coins can be traced back to Lydia (present day Turkey) around 610–560 BC. First made of electrum, a mixture of gold and silver and later made of gold and silver, the ‘coins’ were of a rough bean shape and bore the royal symbol of a lion.

Dried Money: Leather Money

Animal hides and leather were a popular currency around 600 BC, though probably in use as currency some time earlier than this.

Leather currency was used in early Roman times, Carthage (present day Tunisia), early France, China and Russia. China’s Emperor Wudi (141–87 BC) used skins from his own white stags to create currency.

See how money has evolved up to the present day. Click here to read ‘A Brief History of Money – Part 2’.

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