Red Book Editor Emeritus Kenneth Bressett’s Thoughts on “Curious Currency”

Ken Bressett, Editor Emeritus of the Guide Book of United States Coins, shares his thoughts on “odd and curious” (primitive) money, and on Curious Currency: The Story of Money From the Stone Age to the Internet Age, Robert Leonard’s newly updated book on the subject.

Curious CurrencyThe use of money today is so ubiquitous that we seldom give thought to why it functions the way it does, how it came to be, or what we would do without it. People are paid for the work they do, or for their creative efforts or skills, and they spend that recompense for things they desire that have been provided to them by others. The bridge between effort, compensation, and reward is what is known as “money.” It is the necessary medium that keeps commerce functioning in an orderly manner without constantly negotiating the value of services versus products or payments.

It often comes as a surprise when people learn that trade items, coins, and diverse forms of money have been used for thousands of years. An even greater revelation is that barter and trade must have played a crucial part in the early beginnings of civilized contact between prehistoric clans.

The desire to exchange surplus items for different things that were needed was the driving force in establishing customs and rules about how various items should be valued and how interchanges should be carried out. The ultimate solutions became what is now inclusively known as “money.” The long road to the variety of monies used today was not a straight path. Hundreds of different items have been used to accommodate the diverse needs of everyday commerce and trade by different societies throughout the years. Some of the items that were used defy credulity. Others have stood the test of time.

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