How Money Has Changed

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Part 2: Money Throughout History

Money in coin form has been around since about 600 B.C. When the Greek and Roman civilizations--the dominant economies and civilizations of the times-- began accepting coins as money, most of the rest of the world went along. Coins are still accepted today but usually as percentages of paper money. (A quarter is one quarter of a dollar, etc.)

The first paper money was issued in China in the 13th century. The concept didn't catch on in the West until about 400 years later. The paper dollar appeared in the United States after the Revolutionary War and slowly became the national standard of value.

Most of the common forms of money today--including checks, money orders, stock certificates, and government bonds, just to name a few--are based on the dollar. Going back to our definition, we can say that the dollar is money because a majority of people in the country (and even the world) accept it as a means of exchange. In historical terms, the dollar is a new form of money, yet it is accepted almost everywhere in the world.

An even newer form of money is electronic money. With the widespread use of computers today, a great many monetary transactions are electronic. No physical money changes hands, and paper records are optional. The dollars and cents are represented by bits and bytes. The standard hasn't changed, just the method of exchange.

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David White