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Origin of Money

May 01, 2001 607 Words
What is Money? At first sight the answer to this question seems obvious. A man or woman in the street would agree on coins and banknote which could be known as checks, for a good or a service but would they accept them from any country? They would probably be less willing to accept them than their own country's coins and notes but bank money actually accounts for by far the greatest proportion by value of the total supply of money. Credit cards and gold are some what different. The gold standard belongs to history but even today in many rich people in different parts of the world would rather keep some of their wealth in the form of gold than in official, inflation-prone currencies. Gold is a attractive type of material which led to its use for monetary transactions for thousands of years. All sorts of things have been used as money at different times in different places. Like amber, beads, cowries, drums, eggs, feathers, gongs, hoes, ivory, jade, kettles, leather, mats, nails, oxen, pigs, quartz, rice, salt, thimbles, umiacs, vodka, wampum, yarns, and zappozats (decorated axes). It is almost impossible to define money in terms of its physical form or properties since these are so diverse. Therefore any definition must be based on its functions, which are units of account, common measure of value ,medium of exchange, and store of value. So with that in mind money is anything that is widely used for making payments and accounting for debts and credits. Money originated because before that the only form of money is barter and the things that was wrong with barter was that it was inconvenient , in such case it was livestock and whenever someone wanted to trade they would have to bring their herd with them when the transaction took place. The use of primitive forms of money in the Third World and North America is more recent and better documented than in Europe and its study sheds light on the probable origins of modern money. Among the topics treated are the use of wampum and the custom of the potlatch or competitive gift exchange in North America, disc-shaped stones in Yap, cowrie shells over much of Africa and Asia, cattle, manillas and whales teeth. Manillas were ornamental metallic objects worn as jewelry in west Africa and used as money as recently as 1949. They were an ostentatious form of ornamentation, their value in that role being a prime reason for their acceptability as money. Wampum's use as money in north America undoubtedly came about as an extension of its desirability for ornamentation. Precious metals have had ornamental uses throughout history and that could be one reason why they were adopted for use as money in many ancient societies and civilizations. In Fijian society gifts of whales teeth were (and in certain cases still are) a significant feature of certain ceremonies. One of their uses was as bride-money, with a symbolic meaning similar to that of the engagement ring in Western society. Whales teeth were "tambua" (from which our word "taboo" comes) meaning that they had religious significance, as did the fei stones of Yap which were still being used as money as recently as the mid 1960s. In conclusion money could be anything of value, units of account, had to be durable, and not so vas that everyone could get as much as they wanted. Money wouldn't be much of a value unless the people had faith in it and believe that it will be good for something such as a trade or a services.

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