Rai Stones

           It was in fairly modern times that money transformed from being purely a physical thing, tangible coins or paper changing hands, to an ethereal substance. Today, when money is used, it largely moves only in a digital sense and before the digital era, it may have changed hands without physically moving but instead by the

Barter and Money in Post-War Germany

           When a currency is discredited, people usually turn to substitutes. These are often foreign currencies. Sometimes though the economy functions only by resorting to barter. This is hardly a solution since bartering is usually impractical. During the late 1940s in occupied Germany, people traded goods for products like cigarettes, coal, and potatoes which were in

Seashell Money in America

              Today, coins and banknotes are the most common physical manifestations of money, but money does not need to take these common forms. Anything could be money, or at least exhibit some of the qualities of money, even seemingly common items anyone could produce. Consider that cowrie shells were used as money in Africa and Asia

Recoinage Crisis of 1696

           In the late 17th century, a series of advances were made in finance. Though originating in England, this period of increasing sophistication became known as the ‘Financial Revolution’ even outside Britain. Long-term government borrowing, central banks, and stock exchanges were each either born or developed into more recognizable forms in this period. It was a

Italian Unification and the Corso Forzoso

           Fiscally troubled governments have often found monetary expedients to their financial difficulties. The result is often trouble. Deficits once financed by issuing bonds willingly bought are thereafter financed by printing money reluctantly accepted. The result is a despotic tax, levied arbitrarily on those unable to secure a ‘real’ income both sufficient and recurring for their

How the Bank of Amsterdam Changed Money

           When central banks were created in the 17th century, they didn’t everywhere change the nature of money. Indeed, the Bank of England was founded not with any particular monetary objective in mind, but rather with a fiscal one. In Holland by contrast, the Bank of Amsterdam was established with a monetary raison d’etre. Almost immediately

Philip IV, the Counterfeiter King

           Finance is usually distinguished from the ‘real economy’ to isolate those parts of an economic system that are most directly engaged in production or consumption. However, this shouldn’t suggest that a financial system cannot reveal anything new about the ‘real economy’ not already measured. The condition of a monetary system can be indicative of an

Experiments in Military Currency

           Technical advances brought about changes in military planning during the Second World War, but measuring the impact of new technologies and tactics was not the only preoccupation of the planners. Even monetary questions had to be confronted. During the war, armies had to be supplied with locally sourced materials wherever they were. This need, along

Bank Restriction Act in Caricature

           The 18th century was a formative one in finance, especially in Britain. The innovations of the ‘Financial Revolution’ and the accompanying respect for the importance of sound credit had resulted in an increasing ‘financialization’ of the economy. Though still scarce, credit was becoming more accessible, most of all for the increasingly indebted British state. When

Fishguard and the Gold Standard

           In its first century in operation, the Bank of England carried out a wide array of functions, many of which it had a legal or practical monopoly over. One of these was ensuring its banknotes, the most common in the country, were adequately backed by reserves, the most important of which was gold. However, in

Forsaken Somali Shilling

           Fiat currencies supposedly receive their value from the dictates of the issuing government. Citizens must pay their taxes in official currency and even the acceptance of a certain money in private transactions may be mandated by the state. Accordingly, the exact value of fiat currencies is usually linked to the health of the issuer. If

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