You must be familiar with the term ‘barter system’. This was the medium of exchange of goods and services among human being in earlier days. We know the fact that money wasn’t there always. Hence, people needed something to fulfill their needs. You will be amazed to know what all the things they used that later complicated society and created a scenario in which people thought to create on one medium of exchange. That made the things easier and better.
Not only cows but people used many animals like goats, sheep, cattle, deer etc. In North America animal skin was popularly used hence exchange of animal for goods started rapidly. But this created a lot many problems as availability of animals were less. It was a deal of losses as it used to provide limited stock of food to the person who was providing animal for the life time. Animal couldn’t be divided into pieces and used several times. Not a great idea it was!
2. Large stones
Russians used to barter large stones with other good. Yes, they can be used for building purpose but the issue was immobility. Large stones were hard and impossible to carry around. Not much source was available to move them. Indeed, a very heavy deal.
Cigarettes were also used as money in the prisoner-of-war camps that cropped up all over Europe during the Second World War in Germany. These prisons used to receive standard food parcels from the red cross that which included basic food items likes rice, sugar, meat etc. As soon as the ration used to arrive they start exchanging them for cigarettes.
4. Cowrie shells
Cowrie shells or any type of them were only available near water bodies. In China, India and Africa shells were very popular as they were portable and were easy to take along on trips and travels. People who lived near such areas had total access to them. The problem involved here was they were available in very large number. Also not everyone needed them hence bartering them wasn’t that easy as seemed. But they look so beautiful!
Yes, they provide warmth but the demand was seasonal. It could not be used in summers. We need blankets now because we have ACs.
The problem of barter was involved here as well. It wasn’t necessary that the person you want sugar from is in the need of rice. Hence your demand for one good involved 10 other goods as well. Oh, so confusing!
In china people used to exchange goods for paper. Paper mostly was used for burning, wrapping and other stuff. It was certainly on useful good that most of the people around needed but its worth was definitely less. You just cannot give your cow for one kilogram of paper.
Russians used fish as the medium of exchange and then it emerged all over the world. Easily availability of fish was there around the water areas. But what about the vegetarians? If you have a fish you have to roam around and search for a non vegetarian family to exchange it. There wasn’t any guarantee that your desired good will be available there.
Barley is not in much demand today apart from the health freaks but it was largely consumed in olden times. Yes, the same problem was involved with this food like other grains.
In the western part of Africa salt was used as currency till 20th century. Salt used to be extracted from Sahara Desert. It became currency because of its hardness and durability. It contained all the nutrients and was easy to carry. Soon, people understood that demand for salt is very much in the economy. They started keeping large stock of salt. By the end everyone had salt in their houses. Hence, nobody needed it! Ugh, demand supply issue again!
The American state of Virginia which produced truckloads of Tobacco used it as money; so did the states of Maryland and North Carolina. In fact, the legislature in Virginia made tobacco legal tender in 1642.
At one time people used to call it ‘ Black Gold’. It was valued much more than the other spices. Later people growing it here itself hence the availability became easy. Therefore, value and demand both decreased. I understated you a lot, black pepper!
C’mon! Who can exchange blood for food? People who were poor and had no other good used to sell their blood in exchange of food and other necessities. Not everyone needed blood. Hence, it wasn’t that easy to sell it.