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STORING WEALTH. Almost every society now has a money economy based on

coins and paper notes of one kind or another. However, this has not

always been true. In primitive societies a system of barter was used.

Barter was a system of direct exchange of goods. Somebody could exchange

a sheep, for example, for anything in the market place that they

considered to be equal value. Barter however was a very unsatisfactory

system because people’s precise needs seldom coincided. People needed a

more practical system of exchange, and various money systems developed

based on goods, which the members of a society recognized as having a

value. Cattle, grain, teeth, shells, features, skulls, salt, elephant

tusks and tobacco have all been used. Precious metals gradually took

over because, when made into coins, they were portable, durable,

recognizable, and divisible into larger and smaller units of value.


A coin is a piece of metal, usually disc-shaped, which bears

lettering, designs or numbers showing its value. Until the 18th and 19th

centuries coins were given monetary worth based on the exact amount of

metal contained in them, but most modern coins are based on face value,

the value the governments choose to give them, irrespective of the

actual metal content. Coins have been made of gold (Au), silver (Ag),

copper (Cu), aluminum (Al), nickel (Ni), lead (Pb), zinc (Zn), plastic

and in China even from pressed tealeaves. Most governments now issue

paper money in the form of notes, which are “promises to pay". Paper

money is obviously easier to handle and much more convenient in the

modern world. Checks, bankers, cards and credit cards are being used

increasingly and it is possibly to imagine a world where “money” in the

form of coins and paper currently will no longer be used. Even today, in

the U.S many places-especially filling stations-will not accept cash at

night for security reasons.




Barter and the Double Coincidence of Wants


As long as specialization was limited, desirable trades were relatively

easy to uncover. As the economy developed, however, greater

specialization in the division of labor increased the difficulty of

finding goods that each trader wanted to exchange. Rather than just two

possible types of producers, there were, say, a hundred types of

producers, ranging from potters to shoemakers. The potter in need of new

shoes might have trouble finding a shoemaker in need of pots. Barter

depends on a double coincidence of wants, which occurs only when traders

are willing to exchange their product for what the other is selling. The

cobbler must be willing to exchange shoes for the pots offered by the

potter, and the potter must be willing to exchange pots for the shoes

offered by the cobbler. Not only might this double coincidence of wants

be hard to find but after the two traders connect they would also need

to agree upon a rate of exchange—that is, how many pots should be

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