What is Money

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Money is anything that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts. The main functions of money are as a medium of exchange, a unit of account, and a store of value. In the past, money was almost always commodity money, money with intrinsic value from the commodity of which it is made (eg. gold and silver coins, shells, tobacco leaves, grain). However, modern monetary systems are based on fiat money – money without intrinsic value, but declared by a government to be legal tender, that is, it must be accepted as a form of payment for ‘all debts, public and private’. The term “price system” is sometimes used to refer to methods using commodity valuation or money accounting systems.

The money supply of a country is usually held to consist of currency (banknotes and coins) and ‘deposit money’ (the balance held in checking accounts and savings accounts). These demand deposits usually account for a much larger part of the money supply than currency. Deposit money is intangible and exists only in the form of various bank records. Despite being intangible, deposit money still performs the basic functions of money, as checks are generally accepted as a form of payment and as a means of transferring ownership of deposit money.

History of money

Main article: History of money

The use of barter-like methods may date back to at least 100,000 years ago, though there is no evidence of a society or economy that relied primarily on barter.[7] Instead, non-monetary societies operated largely along the principles of gift economics. When barter did occur, it was usually between either complete strangers or would-be enemies.[8]

Many cultures around the world eventually developed the use of commodity money. The shekel was an ancient unit of weight and currency. The first usage of the term came from Mesopotamia circa 3000 BC. and referred to a specific mass of barley which related other values in a metric such as silver, bronze, copper etc. A barley/shekel was originally both a unit of currency and a unit of weight.[9] Societies in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia used shell money – usually, the shell of the money cowry (Cypraea moneta) were used.

A 640 BCE one-third staterelectrum coin from Lydia.

According to Herodotus, and most modern scholars, the Lydians were the first people to introduce the use of gold and silver coin.[10] It is thought that these first stamped coins were minted around 650–600 BC.[11] Paper money or banknotes were first used in China during the Song Dynasty. These banknotes, known as “jiaozi” evolved from promissory notes used since the 7th century. However, they did not displace commodity money, and were used alongside coins. Banknotes were first issued in Europe by Stockholms Banco in 1661.


The word “money” is believed to originate from a temple of Hera, located on Capitoline, one of Rome’s seven hills. In the ancient world Hera was often associated with money. The temple of Juno Moneta at Rome was the place where the mint of Ancient Rome was located.[12] The name “Juno” may derive from the Etruscan goddess Uni (which means “the one”, “unique”, “unit”, “union”, “united”) and “Moneta” either from the Latin word “monere” (remind, warn, or instruct) or the Greek word “moneres” (alone, unique).

In the Western world, a prevalent term for coin-money has been specie, stemming from Latin in specie, meaning ‘in kind’.


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