You might have heard recent stories about Bitcoin early adopters and the millions they reaped. This so-called ‘crypto hype’ has created many followers, investors, and more than a few sceptics.

I have been looking into this chain for over three years now. I am still an enthusiast and by no means call myself an expert in the matter. I am learning and adapting every day, but so is technology.

Life goes on, some technologies catch on, some do not. To understand what this fuss is about, I think we might benefit from looking into the origins of money and how humans traded before its appearance.

Shell Money

Before money, people exchanged services and goods bartering. I give you a kilo of tomatoes and you give me two loaves of bread. I then exchange a loaf of bread for some milk, and so on. This bartering was fine for its time but, as the economy grew, the method proved difficult and new means were required to allow for trade.  

That is how money was born, but it was neither dollars, pounds, euros, gold, or even silver.

It was simply an object that represented a value. According to A History of Money from Ancient Times to the Present Day, by Glyn Davies, by 3,000 BCE, many societies were adopting marine shells to define the unit of value exchange.  Shells were mainly used inland, because it was something that people could not easily find or replicate.

No one could produce more, but only exchange them. This is also why shells were probably more prevalent than stones for this purpose.  
Anecdotally, the shells used were often those of a particular sea snail known scientifically as cypraea moneta.

You might be thinking, well, that is not a great method. Anyone can go and pick loads of shells from the sea. You are right. This unit of exchange (we shall call it currency) was unreliable and was eventually replaced by other currencies.

Through millennia, currencies have been superseded by one object or another, each time with the aim of making sure that its production is controllable; that no one can obtain more unless they work for it; and that it can be divided into smaller units, thus allowing for transactions between merchants and the population…

Words Ali Parandeh Zandpour

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