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When was the last time you paid in cash? Coins and bills are less common as debit cards, credit cards, and mobile payment services continue to dominate purchasing power.
So it’s not hard to imagine that other types of currency exist in the world.
Here are 20 unusual things used for currency around the world!
In 2008, Argentina had a severe coin shortage. Small businesses would offer tiny candies in lieu of change. And if you declined the candy? The store owner may just cancel the whole sale to avoid giving away precious coins.
2. Potato Mashers
In ancient Cameroon, you could make large purchases with Bafia Potato Mashers. These large, iron mashers were exchanged for things like a bride, which could set you back 30 potato mashers.
These heavy crushers displayed status as only more affluent families had them.
3. Bottle Caps
Cameroon these days still has an unusual currency. Bottle caps.
What began as a contest for one company, expanded to many other businesses. Now you can see bottle caps exchanged for taxi fare and other small items.
Quasi-Universal Intergalactic Denomination (QUID) is a space currency designed for zero-gravity exchanges.
The design has no sharp edges to avoid damaging equipment and no magnetic chips which would be damaged from cosmic radiation.
The space money, designed in England, is named with reference to British slang for the Pound.
Cryptocurrency is no longer that unusual to some. But it is still on this list as it is actually banned in 9 countries.
Bitcoin is decentralized, meaning that it has no governing body.
There is a limit of 21 million Bitcoins in existence and people mine them to trade publicly. That limit is not expected to be reached until 2140.
Also Read: 13 Bizarre Inventions That Never Took Off
Another cryptocurrency, Dogecoin was originally created as a joke to make fun of Bitcoin. It got its name from a popular meme in 2013 that misspelled “dog” as “doge.”
Though not as mainstream as Bitcoin, it continues to rank in the top 10 cryptocurrencies per market capitalization.
7. Zaire Cut-Outs
In 1997, Zaire was renamed “The Democratic Republic of the Congo” following a coup that removed the ruler at the time. With this transition in power, the country found itself in a tight financial situation.
All of the bank notes had the face of the displaced ruler. So, they just cut out his face until new bills could be printed. Problem solved.
8. Sea Shells
Cultures all over the world have used seashells as money. Carved into ornamental beads, you could exchange this commodity for other goods. The Cowry shell is a small mollusk that was most commonly used for currency.
During World War 1, Germany and Austria were in a financial crisis. Local banks began to issue Notgeld, which were banknotes produced on whatever material was available. This included wood, linen, leather, and aluminum foil, to name a few.
The emergency banknotes had expiration dates and became collectors’ items.
10. Reggiano Cheese Wheel
There is a bank in Italy that will give you a loan in exchange for expertly made Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese wheels.
The bank reportedly has $190M in 430,000 cheese assets.
11. Rai Stones
Rai Stones are large artifacts used as currency for large purchases in the Yap Islands.
To acquire the large stones, sometimes 12 feet across, they must take a boat to another island, break the stone in a circle, and transport it back home.
The rocks are displayed in front of the house of the owner. Exchanges of the rai stones are done in a public ceremony.
12. Tea Bricks
In Northern and Eastern Asia, they exchanged bricks of tea in trade into the 20th century. In addition to having monetary value, the bricks were also edible if travelers became hungry. So people actually preferred tea bricks to traditional money.
13. Canada Tire
A tire company in Canada made a reward system with fake money. Little did they know that their plastic bills would gain actual monetary value. Other small businesses accept Canada Tire money because they often shop at Canada Tire themselves.
14. Phone Credits
Air-time is a hot commodity. You can trade pre-paid mobile phone credits between phones to pay for things such as taxi rides, small shop purchases, and more. This is most common in Egypt, Ghana, and Nigeria.
Salt has been a form of payment since ancient times. In Ancient Rome, the term, “Salarium”, referred to payments made to soldiers in salt. This is where we get the term, “salary.”
Salt is still used as currency in some African communities.
Another spice that seconds as currency is pepper. Peppercorn was exchanged throughout the Roman Empire. In times of coin scarcity, it was reportedly used to pay rent and taxes up into the 18th Century.
Maybe money does grow on trees! Mayans and Aztecs of Central and South America used Cacao beans as money. The beans could buy food and clothes, pay taxes, and pay offerings to the gods.
Tulip-Mania occurred in the mid-1600s in Holland. Tulips and tulip bulbs were exchanged as money and were even written into people’s wills. At one point, the rarest bulbs were worth several times the average person’s annual income!
19. Dolphin Teeth
I would love to tell you that this happened a long time ago. But not so. It’s actually fairly new. Dolphin teeth are used as currency in the Solomon Islands. Since the 1960’s thousands of dolphins have been killed for this form of money and body ornamentation.
20. Shire Silver
Local to New Hampshire starting in 2007, Shire Silver was created and is still used as money today.
The silver or gold is formed into thin rectangles about the size of a credit card.
Though it’s mostly used locally, the creator claims that the Shire Silver has global value.
Money Comes in all Shapes and Sizes
Commodities, cryptocurrencies, and emergency banknotes…Oh my! So many interesting and unusual things have been used as money over the centuries. While some are ancient and some new, money is always changing.
Leslie Cramer is a personal finance writer and business strategist for entrepreneurs. A single mom to 3 young boys, she is building generational wealth for her family. Her passion is helping other female entrepreneurs achieve financial independence and personal freedom. Leslie started her first business at 16 years old and has been an entrepreneur ever since.