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Tag Archives: medium of exchange

A bronze currency in ancient Europe?

Metal scraps from a soldier’s pouch found at the Late Bronze Age battlefield of Tollensee Valley (source)1) Last month I wrote about hacksilver currency in the ancient Middle East. This month I thought I'd share some fascinating archaeological research exploring what Europeans may have used as money during the Bronze Age.2) By Bronze Age Europe, what is generally meant is the period beginning with the first appearance of bronze, a product of copper and tin, in southern Europe around 3000 BC...

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Hacksilver

1. Over the last month or two I've been following an interesting archaeological debate over the discovery of coinage. I thought I'd share it with you.2. It's generally accepted by archaeologists and numismatists that the first coins were invented in Lydia, modern day western Turkey, in the 7th Century B.C.E. (i.e. 610 B.C.E. or so). The idea quickly spread to Greece. The Lydians used electrum, a strange silver/gold mix, to make their discs. (I wrote about electrum coins here). I've included...

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In-game virtual items as a form of criminal money

A few weeks back Vice had an interesting story about Valve, a game maker, putting an end to trade in various in-game items because "worldwide fraud networks" had been using these items to "liquidate" their gains. You can see the blog post from Valve here: "Why make this change? In the past, most key trades we observed were between legitimate customers. However, worldwide fraud networks have recently shifted to using CS:GO keys to liquidate their gains. At this point, nearly all key...

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Esperanto, money’s interval of certainty, and how this applies to Facebook’s Libra

Facebook recently announced a new cryptocurrency, Libra. I had earlier speculated about what a Facebook cryptocurrency might look like here for Breakermag. I think this is great news. MasterCard, Visa, and the various national banking systems (many of which are oligopolies) need more competition. With a big player like Facebook entering the market, prices should fall and service improve, making consumers better off. The most interesting thing to me about Facebook's move into payments is...

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The difference between two colourful bits of rectangular paper

David Andolfatto had a provocative and open-ended tweet a few days back: The difference between money and debt. pic.twitter.com/CSQuLzUJPU — David Andolfatto (@dandolfa) April 26, 2019 We see two coloured pieces of paper, both with an old dead President on it. They each have a face value of $500. Both are issued by a branch of the government, the $500 McKinley banknote (at right) by the Federal Reserve while the $500 Treasury bond (at left) by the Treasury. Both are bearer instrument:...

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The Haitian dollar

Haiti is home to a strange monetary phenomenon. Shopkeepers and merchants set prices in the Haitian dollar, but there is no actual thing as the Haitian dollar. I've written before about an exotic type of unit-of-account known as an abstract unit of account. A nation's unit of account is the symbol used by its citizens and businesses to advertise and record prices. Here in Canada we use the $ while in a country like Japan people use the ¥. The national unit of account almost always...

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Norbert’s gambit

I executed one of the oddest financial transactions of my life earlier this week. I did Norbert's Gambit.These days a big chunk of my income is in U.S. dollars. But since I live in Quebec, my expenses are all in Canadian dollars. To pay my bills, I need to convert this flow of U.S. dollars accumulating in my account to Canadian dollars. Outsiders may not realize how dollarized Canada is. Many of us Canadians maintain U.S. dollar bank accounts or carry around U.S. dollar credit cards....

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Store of value

LSD tabs like these ones have an incredibly high value-to-weight ratioWhen bitcoin first appeared, it was supposed to be used to buy stuff online. In his 2008 whitepaper, Satoshi Nakamoto even referred to his creation as an electronic cash system. But the stuff never caught on as a medium-of-exchange: it was too volatile, fees were too high, and scaling problems resulted in sluggish speeds. Despite losing its motivating purpose, bitcoin's price kept rising. The bitcoin cognoscenti began to...

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