We spend it, we save it, we send it. But how much do we really know about money?
In a bid to understand the thing that makes the world go round, we thought we’d explore some fun facts about money. Some of them are rather astonishing (who knew that money dates back more than 5,000 years?) and some are a little bleak (global debt, we’re looking at you). Nevertheless, these facts about money have confirmed that money is indeed a fascinating thing.
Ready to learn a thing or two? Here are 10 fun facts about money.
1. Money dates way back
Money has been a part of human history for at least 5,000 years. Before then, a system of bartering was likely used. The world’s oldest coin dates back to 600 BCE in China, which then moved to paper money around 700 CE. But for parts of Europe, it took until the 16th Century to switch from metal coins to paper money.
2. Paper money enabled international trade
Once the shift to paper money had occurred, international trade began to increase. Currency value began to depend on the strength of a particular country’s government or monarchy and before long, currency wars had started.
3. Two new forms of currency launched in the 21st Century
Mobile payment technology and virtual currency are two new forms of currency that launched in the 21st Century. Mobile payments are used to pay for products and services through a smartphone or tablet, while virtual currency is a digital representation of value that functions as a medium of exchange. It is not controlled or regulated by a central bank.
4. It costs more than a cent to make a cent
In the US, it costs roughly 2 cents to make a 1-cent coin. For a nickel (5 cents), it’s 7.5 cents. These extra costs quickly add up. In 2018 (when the most recent figures were available), it’s estimated that cent production cost the US taxpayer an extra $85.4 million and nickel production an extra $33.5 million.
5. The Euro is the second most important currency in the world
The US Dollar is the world’s favourite currency for borrowing, lending and central bank reserves. The Euro is the second. Since the Euro was introduced in 1999, living standards and employment have increased. Euro economies have also been protected from exchange rate volatility. Today, the Euro is shared by over 340 million Europeans.
6. The pound sterling is the oldest existing currency
The pound sterling is the official currency of the United Kingdom, with the first pound appearing in 1489 under the reign of Henry VIII. While the majority of Europe adopted the Euro as a single currency around the beginning of the 21st Century, the pound sterling survived as an independent currency.
7. Only 8% of the world’s currency is in cash
The vast majority of the world’s currency exists in electronic form. Economists estimate that coins and banknotes make up just 8% of the world’s currency. The rest sits on a computer hard drive in electric bank accounts all over the world. Because of the worldwide acceptance of the internet and online payments, people are making and spending money without actually touching it.
8. The first ATM launched in 1967 in London
John Shepherd-Barron is credited with the invention of the Automated Teller Machine (ATM). The first ATM was set up at a branch of Barclay’s bank on a street in Enfield, London in June 1967. The first ATM in the US was launched in September 1969 at the Chemical Bank branch in Rockville Center in New York. In 1970, a British engineer called James Goodfellow created the concept of a personal identification number (PIN).
9. Global debt is dangerously high
The current global debt figure reached a record $303 trillion in 2021 according to the Institute of International Finance. This was a huge jump from the $226 trillion figure in 2020, representing the biggest one-year debt surge since the Second World War. The World Bank says that our current world debt wave is the fourth since 1970 and is a result of various factors including Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine.
10. Billions of funds are transferred each year
In 2021, money transfers to low and middle-income countries reached US $605 billion according to the latest World Bank data. It’s estimated that around one billion people worldwide (or 1 in 7 people) are involved in international money transfers, with around 200 million migrant workers sending money back home and 800 million people receiving it.