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evolution of money

The evolution of Money by TransferGo

January marks the anniversary of the Euro currency. To celebrate TransferGo have created a video that delves into the introduction, history and evolution of money, looking at how we come to have the different currencies we have today.

Money has changed considerably since it was first introduced and the video, created in a fun cartoon format, takes us on a journey from when the first coins were issued in around 600 B.C, to the modern day digital age, where electronic money services have emerged allowing people to quickly and efficiently transfer money to countries all over the world.

The ability to send money to other countries electronically has changed how we use and share money. Many banks can have a high transfer fee, however with TransferGo, there’s a fixed transfer fee of only 99p, so you don’t need to worry about having additional money to cover the fees. Having an easy to use electronic service which is quick and simple is a huge change from when early Roman soldiers were paid in salt for their work!

The video is a light-hearted yet insightful trip through the history of how we came to have the payment methods used today.  You’ll be amazed by the changes that have occurred over the thousands of years since money was first introduced to the world.

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The Evolution of Money Transcript

Have you ever thought about how strange money is?

Small pieces of metal or paper, passed from person to person, traded for food, or clothes, or robotic vacuum cleaners.

Today, we don’t even need anything physical at all. As technology has improved, money has become a stream of ones and zeroes endlessly circling the Earth. How did this happen? Let’s find out, as we discover the evolution of money…

Thousands of years ago, before money existed, humans relied on a system of barter. If you were a farmer, leftover crops could be traded for clothes from the tailor, or beer from the brewer.

In Ancient China, instead of breaking their backs carrying hundreds of items around with them, people began to carry small tokens that represented the items they wanted to trade. Eventually, these tokens were replaced with abstract circles that could represent any item.

According to writings from the time, early Roman soldiers were paid in salt, which is where we get the word ‘salary’!

The first coins we’d recognise today were issued in Lydia (now called Turkey) in about 600 B.C. They were made of Electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver, and made King Croesus extremely wealthy. Today, people still use the phrase “rich as Croesus”.

Paper money was first developed by the Chinese in around 700 A.D, just after they invented woodblock printing. They called it ‘flying cash’ as it had a tendency to be carried away by the wind. When Marco Polo visited China in the 1200s he brought the idea of paper money back to Europe with him, where at the time the Florin had become an international coin accepted all across the continent.

When the British Empire colonised America, the government restricted the colonists from minting currency so they wouldn’t be able to declare independence. We now know that this was a flawless plan. Unperturbed, the colonists gathered any foreign currency they could get their hands on to use instead. Particularly popular was the large silver Spanish ‘Dollar’, which was known as a ‘piece of eight’ because it was worth 8 Reales. As it was made of silver, a soft metal, when someone needed change you could literally cut it into pieces.

Paper money wouldn’t see widespread adoption in the west until the mid-1600s, when banks started issuing notes that promised to pay the bearer on demand a sum of gold. Merchants found it much simpler to just trade the notes with each other, rather than lugging around large amounts of unwieldy metal.

During the American civil war, both sides issued huge amounts of government backed paper currency to fund the war as there wasn’t enough gold. Union currency became known as ‘greenbacks’, thanks to the green ink printed on the reverse side… It’s a colour we still associate with money today.

In 1946, the world’s first charge card, creatively named the ‘Charg-it’, was introduced. It was limited compared to modern credit cards but proved such a useful idea it would lead to the BankAmericard (now known as Visa) and MasterCard. Money finally entered the digital age in the 1980s with the introduction of Automatic Teller Machines – or cash machines to you and me, Personal Identification Numbers, and Debit cards.

As people began surfing the World Wide Web, electronic money services emerged, giving customers an alternative to traditional banks.

In more recent times a new phenomenon has evolved – cryptocurrency. You may know it better as BitCoin. This type of currency is decentralised, meaning it is stored across the entire internet and is owned by no-one.

So, it seems we’ve come a long way from trading goats for wood. While they once dominated, banks are becoming increasingly less important to our daily finances. We started with a cashless society, and with the rise of chip and pin and contactless payment, cash is on the decline. What does the future hold? Will we cease trading in physical money and go completely digital? Or will we come up with an even stranger way of buying the things we want?


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