They Used WHAT For Money!?
Cash is an interesting concept. A group of people can pick any item to make currency by agreeing upon its value. This thing can then be exchanged in place of goods and services. ANY item can serve as the middleman. For proof, check out these outrageous currencies that have been used throughout history.
Do your pockets ever feel weighed down by the spare change in them? Now imagine if, instead of coins, your currency was boulders. Giant rocks may rest a little less comfortably on your hip! Yet that’s exactly how the islanders of Yap in Micronesia measured their wealth.
Rai stones could be up to 12 feet in diameter and sometimes weighed as much as 4 metric tons! They were made of limestone, rounded on the edges, and had a giant hole cut out the middle. The value of a Rai Stone increased with its size, difficulty to transport, and also how many people died directly because of them. The more people who were murdered over a stone, the more valuable that stone became. They were a very literal form of “blood money.”
Plenty of societies have used stones as currency before. Gold, silver, diamonds, and rubies are all common. But Rai Stones were by far the largest. In fact, the only larger, better sculpted, and more valuable rocks known to man are Mount Rushmore and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Kissi Money was iron with a soul. Forged by the local banker/witch doctor/blacksmith, this T-shaped currency was traded throughout the Western region of Africa. The length of each rod ranged from 9 to 15 inches depending on its value. Kissi Money could be used as a weapon or to mark burial sites. This gave a very grave meaning to the phrase, “live for the money; die for the money!”
Food has doubled as currency in multiple locations throughout history. In Central America people traded cocoa beans. In Central Asia it was tea bricks. In East Africa it was salt and in Italy it was cheese. Unfortunately, when your refrigerator doubles as a bank vault, it is much more tempting to eat into your savings. Also related to this subject; a very cruel joke is to give a hungry diabetic pirate a chocolate gold coin.
Not just good in soup, squirrel pelts have been traded as currency since the Middle Ages. They are also really good in soup. The first known people who purchased with pelts were Russian. Those resourceful Ruskies even used squirrel snouts and claws as pocket change. What they should have used them for is soup. Later, squirrel pelts were traded by French Canadians and Native Americans during the European settling of North America. Also, in Finland, squirrel pelts are accepted as currency equivalent to three cents. Which means that in Finland, three cents can buy you some really great soup!
What’s your favorite weird currency?