The fact that example of commodity money money is not connected to tangible assets, such as a national stockpile of gold or silver, means that it is susceptible to depreciation due to inflation. During some of the most severe occurrences of hyperinflation, such as the period after World War II in Hungary, the inflation rate might more than quadruple in a single day. The difference between fiat money and representative money is that fiat money’s value depends on its demand and supply. In contrast, the value of representative money depends on the value of the asset that it is backed by.

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Debasing the coinage, or extracting seigniorage by increasing the nominal value of a given sum of gold or silver, was highly profitable and therefore a favorite sport of kings. Money can be broadly classified as commodity money, representative money, fiat money, or electronic money. The best example of money that illustrates its properties is gold.

The Problems of Fiat Money

The example of commodity money will also usually encourage the use of its money through the force of law, primarily by declaring it as legal tender. Legal tender is a form of money that must be accepted for the payment of debts and other liabilities. For instance, since 1862, all United States dollars were printed with the phrase “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.” Gold in particular has, for long periods of our history, been the standard of value by which international debts have been settled. The issuers of the notes are interested in earning seigniorage, or profits from the issuance of money. They act like fractional reserve bankers, issuing Hours in exchange for dollars, which they put out to interest.

  • Economists say that the invention of money belongs in the same category as the great inventions of ancient times, such as the wheel and the inclined plane, but how did money develop?
  • Because the strawberries won’t last, such a transaction is unlikely to occur.
  • In metallic currencies, a government mint will coin money by placing a mark on metal tokens, typically gold or silver, which serves as a guarantee of their weight and purity.
  • Modern fiat money has no intrinsic value in the way that commodities do, and its value is based purely on its acceptance as a medium of exchange.
  • While the supply of cows is fairly limited, if they were used as money, you can bet ranchers would do their best to increase the supply of cows, which would decrease their value.
  • There is simply no way to predict what the future value will be.

Things like two for one coupons might also work if you know someone who really wants or needs a certain product for which you have a coupon that you don’t plan on using. Something that serves as commodity money only has to have value in itself, rather than being of use to the bearer. For example, there is little most people can actually do with a gold coin and, if someone is a smoker, a cigarette is of more practical use. The gold coin has a much higher value, though, as a jeweler or goldsmith would be able to make use of it to produce an expensive object. Though not similar to traditional commodities, money finds its value in the foundational economic concepts of supply and demand. Understand what commodity money is, learn what gives commodity money its value, and see different examples of commodity money.

Examples of commodity money in the following topics:

That is to say, farmers would produce large quantitates of tobacco, but the population would consume in equal size. Nevertheless, there was a fundamental issue in the fact that the supply would eventually outstrip the demand; meaning there was a large supply of tobacco and/or salt. During this period, Lydian merchants produced a gold coin mixed with silver; otherwise known as electrum. Their aim was to help improve the efficiency of trading between countries.

In contrast, people are more than willing to accept 20-dollar bills. In fact, the U.S. government protects your right to use U.S. currency to pay your bills. MMMFs are mutual funds that invest in short-term, or money market, instruments. Fund owners earn the going market interest rates, minus management fees, and can draw upon their shares by check but at a cost higher than that of most bank checking accounts. Now imagine how this would work in a complex, modern economy, with its extensive division of labor that involves thousands upon thousands of different jobs and different goods & services.

Because no one item serves as a medium of exchange in a barter economy, potential buyers must find things that individual sellers will accept. A buyer might find a seller who will trade a pair of shoes for two chickens. Another seller might be willing to provide a haircut in exchange for a garden hose. You would need to load up a truckful of items the grocer might accept in exchange for groceries.


Relations of reciprocity, and/or redistribution, substituted for market exchange. Commodity money is to be distinguished from representative money, which is a certificate or token which can be exchanged for the underlying commodity, but only by a formal process. A key feature of commodity money is that the value is directly perceived by its users, who recognize the utility or beauty of the tokens as goods in themselves.


Because money acts as a store of value, it can be used as a standard for future payments. When you borrow money, for example, you typically sign a contract pledging to make a series of future payments to settle the debt. These payments will be made using money, because money acts as a store of value. Define what is meant by the money supply and tell what is included in the Federal Reserve System’s two definitions of it .


Furthermore, using cryptocurrencies extensively in any major economy would eliminate some of the monetary policy tools that central banks use to regulate the economy. For instance, the Covid-19 pandemic would have damaged the economy to a much greater extent, if central banks could not increase the money supply. For the same reason, it would’ve taken the world much longer to recover from the Great Recession of 2008. People use fiat money only if they believe that it can be used in the future and that it will not lose value.

Commodity Money: Definition, Examples & Characteristics

But if the value of currency fluctuates widely, then its utility as money declines dramatically. This is why Bitcoin will never serve as a currency for major economies and why virtually every country in the world has moved away from the gold standard and why they will never return. In economics, the monetary base (also base money, money base, high-powered money, reserve money, or, in the UK, narrow money) is a term relating to the money supply or the amount of money in the economy. Eventually, many governments no longer backed fiat currency, and the money increasingly took on a value based on public confidence. As of 1933, U.S. citizens could no longer exchange currency with the U.S. government for gold.

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The use of money is similar to barter, but a commodity money provides a simple and automatic unit of account for the commodity which is being used as money. The African nation of Zimbabwe provided an example of the worst-case scenario in the early 2000s. In response to serious economic problems, the country’s central bank began to print money at a staggering pace. That resulted in GALA hyperinflation, which ran between 231 million and 489 billion percent in 2008. This act established a monetary system whereby national banks issued notes backed by U.S. government bonds. The U.S. Treasury then worked to get state bank notes out of circulation so that the national bank notes would become the only currency.

What prompted people to use commodity money was the fact that it is primarily characterized as intrinsically valuable, which means that it has multiple use cases. For example, soybeans, as a form of commodity DOGE money, can also be used to make food. Gold coins, corn, and cigarettes are perfect examples of commodity money since they hold intrinsic value. Although grains such as barley have been used historically in relations of trade and barter , they can be inconvenient as a medium of exchange or a standard of deferred payment due to transport and storage concerns and eventual spoilage. Gold or other metals are sometimes used in a price system as a durable, easily warehoused store of value . The role of a mint and of coin differs between commodity money and fiat money.

Monetary authorities choose wisely at times, but other times they do not, either as an honest mistake or quite purposefully. Long after gold coins became rare in commerce, the Fort Knox gold repository of the United States functioned as a theoretical backing for Federal Reserve. Between 1933 and 1970 (when the U.S. officially left the gold standard), one U.S. dollar was technically worth exactly 1/35 of a troy ounce of gold. Fiat money like the US dollar seen in Figure 2 is a medium of exchange that is backed by the government and nothing else. Its value is derived from its official recognition as a medium of exchange from government decree.

The state circumvented the British law stating that only the monarch of the British empire could issue coins by dating all their coins in 1652, a period when there was no monarch. In 1690, Massachusetts also issued the first paper money calling it bills of credit. In the 17th century, Great Britain was determined to keep control of both the American colonies and the natural resources they controlled. To do this, the British limited the money supply and made it illegal for the colonies to mint coins of their own. Instead, the colonies were forced to trade using English bills of exchange that could only be redeemed for English goods.

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