Funny Money: Interesting Ancient Currencies
We have not always been so sophisticated as to use our current forms of currency: paper or plastic.
Believe it or not, there was a time when rattling change in your pockets would have been quite dangerous. Oh, how times have changed. Be thankful for the dollar bill.
This is a look at some of history's most interesting currencies.
Ancient African Money
Bafia Potato Masher. And you thought your old potato masher was worthless. The Bafia potato masher was a form of currency in what is modern-day Cameroon, and was used in the most important of trades. For example, a Bafian wife would cost you approximately thirty (30) "ensubas", or potato mashers. The modern US equivalent: 30 ensubas = HALF of everything you own.
Lobi Snake Currency. I can appreciate snake currency. Growing up near Sweetwater, Texas, home of the World's Largest Rattlesnake Roundup, the 2nd weekend in March every year, it's not uncommon to see people trading in snakes. Although it is not an official medium of exchange, it is a boost to the local economy. Yeah, snakes.
Ancient Chinese Currency
Knife Money: See what I mean about rattling change in your pocket? Again, I'm accustomed to everyone walking around with knives in their pockets, but rarely has anyone bought me lunch with one. Believed to be the first Chinese "coins", knife money evolved in many forms, from the early "spade" (top right) to the later "blade" (bottom right).
Hey, that looks about like my barber's blade, I guess that explains the neck burn.
Ancient Egyptian Money
Ring Money: Can you imagine going into the supermarket and asking your wife to remove her ring so you can pay for the groceries? Well, that's not too far from what the ancient Egyptians would do, minus the supermarket, of course. Early Egyptian currency was the rings, bracelets and other jewelry of the day.
For you Bible scholars out there, it is believed that the reference to money in Deuteronomy 14:25 "Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose..." is a reference to Egyptian ring money. I have no way of confirming this, but it is certainly possible.
Early North American Money
Potlatch: The Potlatch ceremony was a "potluck" of gift giving, almost anything was exchanged. From whales' teeth in the Fijian islands, to feathers among the North American natives, to masks, precious metals, food, grain or livestock. The hallmark of the Potlatch was abundant giving. The Potlatch was a celebration of births, marriages, deaths, and everything in between. "Joey got a new canoe, let's party." The Potlatch was less of an exchange and more of a competition. The ultimate status symbol.
Potlatching was finally made illegal in the US and Canada near the end of the 1800s. Too bad, I'm going to a wedding this weekend. But, we are expecting our first child in July, so I guess it all evens out.
The most oppulent of all Potlatches is also commemorated in the pages of the Holy Bible:1Kings 10:4 When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built...10 And she gave the king 120 talents of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones. Never again were so many spices brought in as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.
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