Strange Currencies and Barter 101

Once upon a time, currencies had intrinsic value.  But now the dollar slouches towards Bethlehem  Wampum.

Ever wonder where the term “buck” comes from?

As in “Ray Nichols, you owe me 100 bucks for our bet the Golden State Warriors would sweep the Cleveland Caviliers in the 2017 NBA Finals?”  And “the buck stops here?”

Animal Skins

Animal skins have a surprisingly important history as currency in different parts of the world.

In Russia and Finland, squirrel pelts were a key medium of exchange during medieval times. Even today, the Finnish word “raha”, which now refers to money, originally meant the “fur of squirrel”.

In North America, the European settlers and First Nations tribes found skins to be one commodity they both agreed had value.

In 1748, Beaver pelts became the “standard of trade” in the north. One pelt could buy two pounds of sugar.

Lastly, the use of buck skins in trade gave rise to “buck” as a slang word for currency, which we still use to describe dollars today.  – Visual Capitalist



Or how about the etymology of the term “salary” or the phrase Lebron is “not worth his salt?”


The importance of salt to ancient civilizations cannot be understated. The first written record on salt appears in 2700 BCE in China.

Salt was highly valued for food preservation, but its production was very limited. As a result, in many places of the world, salt was used as currency.

  • As early as the 6th century, Moorish merchants in sub-Saharan Africa routinely traded salt and gold at the same value per ounce.
  • In what is now modern-day Ethiopia, slabs of rock salt were used as coins. Each coin was 10 inches long and two inches thick.
  • Salt was also used as pay soldiers in Ancient Rome. This became known as “solarium argentum”, from which we now derive the word “salary”
  • A soldier’s salary was cut if he was “not worth his salt”, a phrase that still exists today. – Visual Capitalist


Interesting stuff, no?

Go Dubs!    I will trade you one Steph Curry and one Kevin Durant basketball card for ten Lebron James cards.  How is that for an exchange rate?

PPP, over or undervalued?

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One Response to Strange Currencies and Barter 101

  1. Pingback: 06/05/17 – Monday’s Interest-ing Reads | Compound Interest-ing!

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