When was Money First Used?

Man got along quite a long time without money. He used what we call “the barter system”. If a man wanted something he did not make or raise himself, he found another person who had what we wanted and offered him something in exchange.

The first kind of  “money” used by primitive man usually consisted of things to wear or eat. The American Indians used carved shells called “wampun”. Other types of  “money” have been tobacco, grains, skins, salt, and beads.

Eventually, pieces of metal replaced the other kinds of money. The first people to use coined money were the Lydians, a people of Asia Minor. In the eight century B.C., they began to make pieces of metal money which were uniform in weight and design and which could be easily recognized.


Gold and silver had been used as money long before that, but not in the form of coins. They had circulated as bars from which pieces were cut and weighed, but there was no guarantee of purity or weight.

It was the Lydians who first thought of stamping pieces of metal with some symbol as a guarantee. Other peoples imitated them and gradually the use of coins became widespread. After the middle Ages, it was found that a “promise” to pay money, If there well as real money.

So goldsmiths, merchants, and money lenders began to issue notes, which were written promises to pay cash on demand. This “credit currency”, since it was in the form of paper, was safer and more convenient to handle than gold. Soon banks, and then governments, began to issue such paper promises, and “paper money” came into existence. 

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