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How Long Have People Been Using Money?

coins falling out of a jar

Thousands and thousands of years ago, people traded to get the things they needed. A hunter would trade the meat and fur of the animals for vegetables or tools to build a house. This is called bartering. When people began living in bigger groups and wanted to trade with other groups, bartering could be hard.

Bartering only works if the person who has something you need wants something you can give them. What happens if two farmers want to trade potatoes for new shoes from the shoe-maker in town? The shoe-maker only needs so many potatoes, so he can only trade with one farmer. So groups of people in cities and countries developed currency, another word for money, out of metal. Metal was something everyone thought was valuable, so they could spend it on warm blankets, pots for cooking, and more without having to worry if the person selling the blankets and pots wanted the fish they could trade!

The first types of money were coins, like the quarter, dime, nickel, and penny we have today. The first coins date back to between 700 and 500 B.C. (nearly three thousand years ago!) and were made in India, China, and cities near the Aegean Sea. They were made of different metals like bronze, coper, silver, and gold. Many old coins have holes in the middle to make it easier to carry them around on a string.

Paper money wasn’t used until 600 A.D. in China, and it wasn’t used in Europe until the 1600s. Even when there was coin and paper money, people still traded goods if they didn’t live in big cities. How we use money is still changing. Adults sometimes use credit cards made of plastic to buy things instead of metal coins. Paper and plastic are not as heavy to carry as a big bag of coins!

History of Money Fun Facts

  • For a long time, the mint, or place where metal coins were made, of ancient Rome was inside the temple of the goddess Moneta. That’s why many languages have words about money that sound like her name, like “money” and “mint.”
  • Although China was the first to use paper money, they stopped using it in 1455 and didn’t go back to using it for hundreds of years.
  • The word “cash” is from the Chinese word “kai-yuans,” which described a type of bronze coin with square holes in it.
  • The queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II, has her portrait on the currencies of thirty-three different countries—more than any other ruler today!

There used to be $5,000 and $10,000 bills in the U.S., but they are no longer printed.

 
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