The Different Types of Money in an Economy

Of course, the higher it goes, the greater the risk of buying it. Even companies will get in on the act, at least for a while, because as long as the hype keeps increasing, Bitcoin will keep rising — until it doesn’t. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies even rise when they are mentioned in the news or when they are mentioned by a celebrity. On January 29, 2021, when Elon Musk added #Bitcoin to his twitter profile, Bitcoin surged 15% within minutes. Of course, this does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship, but it would not be unreasonable to suspect such a relationship.

Even if one party did not want a commodity, they knew they would be able to trade it with a third party. For instance, Mr B wants to buy a chicken from Mr A. However, Mr A wants a fish in exchange for their chicken. Mr B does not have the fish that Mr A wants, so an exchange cannot be made. Mr A can then use that money to buy the fish from somewhere else.

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Fiat currency, or fiat money, is a type of currency that’s issued by the government and is not backed by physical commodities, such as gold. Instead, the fiat money value comes from the public’s trust in the issuer, the government. Representative is a type of money that is issued by the government and backed by commodities such as precious metals like gold or silver. The value of this type of money is directly linked to the value of the asset that is backing the money. The value of fiat money is determined by supply and demand, and it was created as a substitute for commodity money and representational money in the early 20th century. Representative money is a type of money that is issued by the government and backed by commodities such as precious metals like gold or silver. The United States Dollar , the Euro and most other major currencies are fiat monies. The main alternative to fiat currencies is commodity money, which is backed by a tangible asset. The USD, for example, was previously backed by a specific amount of gold, and people could convert one into the other. For example, it is now possible to transfer money from your savings account to your checking account using an automated teller machine , and then to withdraw cash from your checking account.

This is the type of monetary system the US used up until 1971 and has the same issues as that of commodity money. It has more stability and is difficult to artificially influence. But it has a slower economic growth rate and commodities can perish over time. In contrast, the deflation of prices related to technological goods is clear evidence that falling prices are not detrimental to economic growth. People do not avoid buying the latest smartphones simply because they expect prices to be lower in future, so the whole argument against gold or other types of commodity money is misplaced. On this page I will focus on the earliest evolution of money from the barter system to various types of commodities that have been used as money. Read more about eth exchange rate here. I’ll also ponder some of the frailties of our current monetary system and the possible return to a representative money if the ravages of inflation and debasement irreparably undermine our confidence in fiat money.
Sometimes, governments increase the money supply as an easy way to solve fiscal problems, but too much inflation can destroy the value of money. Inflation does the most damage to money as a store of value, since its value continually declines as more money is created. Rather than keeping an inflating currency, people spend it as fast as possible before it loses value, which, in turn, causes prices to rise even more. If not useful as money, what causes demand for Bitcoins or for other cryptocurrencies? Much of the demand probably comes from criminal enterprises who are willing to accept the volatility of Bitcoin because financial transactions and money laundering can be done secretly, making it easier to evade the authorities. People in countries with unstable governments or distrusted governments may also turn to cryptocurrency, since it is better than using a hyperinflated currency issued by a corrupt government.

Example of Fiat Money Gone Wrong: Hyperinflation

A fiat money is a type of currency that is declared legal tender by a government but has no intrinsic or fixed value and is not backed by any tangible asset, such as gold or silver. Fiat currency values are guaranteed by the government that issues the money, and the government can control the supply of money in circulation in response to economic fluctuations. These types of notes were issued particularly in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Massachusetts. Such money was sold at a discount of silver, which the government would then spend, and would expire at a fixed date later. As the finances of the French government deteriorated because of European wars, it reduced its financial assistance to its colonies, so the colonial authorities in Canada relied more and more on card money. By 1757, the government had discontinued all payments in coin and payments were made in paper instead. In an application of Gresham’s Law – bad money drives out good – people hoarded gold and silver, and used paper money instead. The costs of the Seven Years’ War resulted in rapid inflation in New France.
Conversely, items in lower demand have lower prices in relation to their cost of production, and, thus, sellers will allocate fewer economic resources to provide those items. Because money is standardized into specific values, it can be used to price goods and services, and allows the easy comparison of prices. Because the value of money is determined by general agreement, the condition of the money is irrelevant to its value. When money is offered, only the amount matters, not its condition. Another mathematical model that explains the value of fiat money comes from game theory.

Do we use commodity money or fiat money?

Commodity money: Money that derives its value from the substance or the potential use of the money itself. Commodity money is said to have “intrinsic value” Fiat money: Money that has its value due to decree and legislation by the government. Most world economies are fiat economies.

Fiat money is backed only by the faith of the government and its ability to levy taxes. Since it does not have an intrinsic value per se, it can be more prone to this kind of inflation as more can be printed at will. While the US hasn’t been as bad as Zimbabwe or Venezuela, 35% of all the US dollars ever printed entered circulation in the ten months before December 2020. The US may face the consequences of its heavy money-printing activity sooner rather than later. The Zimbabwean dollar and the Venezuelan bolivar are two of the more prominent examples. After the first and second World Wars, European countries lost their gold reserves by financing their military efforts and importing foreign goods. That’s why the US held 75% of the world’s gold by the mid-1940s. We provide the banking community with timely information and useful guidance. We serve the public by pursuing a growing economy and stable financial system that work for all of us.


Also known as commodity-based money, this monetary system allows the use of items with no intrinsic value as currency, as long as a commodity with unquestionable value backs them. Another problem with the barter system is that it does not allow us to easily enter into future contracts for purchasing many goods and services. For example, if the goods are perishable it may be difficult to exchange them for other goods in the future. Imagine a farmer wanting to buy a tractor in six months using a fresh crop of strawberries. Additionally, while the barter system might work adequately in small economies, it will keep these economies from growing. The time that individuals would otherwise spend producing goods and services and enjoying leisure time they spend bartering. Money changed that system by its inherent ability to store purchasing power — giving people the opportunity to make plans for the future and to specialize. In other words, if you’re a good wheat farmer, then you can specialize in wheat, and buy your equipment, hire workers, and look for neighbors’ land to buy to expand your wheat farm. Near monies are relatively-liquid financial assets that can be quickly converted into M1 money. Money is any object that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and the repayment of debt.
International balances were settled in dollars, which were convertible to gold at a fixed exchange rate. The gold standard was in place until 1971, when US President Richard Nixon, faced with surging inflation and high unemployment, ended it as the amount of foreign-held dollars exceeded the amount of gold in the US reserves. Fiat money is the term used to describe currencies that are backed by the government that issued them and aren’t aren’t tied to the value of a physical commodity such as gold or silver. They derive their value largely through the public’s trust in the issuers. And we know that things like gold, silver, copper, etc are extracted from the earth, and after polishing it to a finished product it is sold in the market. But, here comes the major limitation of commodity money and that is they are not easily accepted or accessible everywhere. There are some specific places where we can find commodity money for selling and purchasing.

Money as a Medium of Exchange

Currently, most nations use paper-based fiat currencies that only serve as a mode of payment. One reason why there is more United States currency outside of the United States than within is because many people in certain countries do not trust their governments. They are afraid that their government will print too much money as an easy way to solve fiscal problems, which would reduce the value of the native currency held by the people. This happened in Argentina in the 1980’s and in Russia in the 1990’s. Hence, many of these people hold their store of value as United States dollars, mostly in the form of 100-dollar bills.

Because it is difficult to determine what to measure as money, the Fed reports several different measures of money, including M1 and M2. Is a written order to a bank to transfer ownership of a checkable deposit. Suppose, for example, that you have $100 in your checking account and you write a check to your campus bookstore for $30 or instruct the clerk to swipe your debit card and “charge” it $30. In either case, $30 will be transferred from your checking account to the bookstore’s checking account. Notice that it is the checkable deposit, not the check or debit card, that is money. The check or debit card just tells a bank to transfer money, in this case checkable deposits, from one account to another. We saw in the chapter that introduced the concept of inflation that inflation reduces the value of money. In periods of rapid inflation, people may not want to rely on money as a store of value, and they may turn to commodities such as land or gold instead. Because money acts as a store of value, it can be used as a standard for future payments.

Fiat money serves only as a medium of exchange, because its use as such is authorized by the government; it has no intrinsic value. A credit card identifies you as a person who has a special arrangement with the card issuer in which the issuer will lend you money and transfer the proceeds to another party whenever you want. Thus, if you present a MasterCard to a jeweler as payment for a $500 ring, the firm that issued you the card will lend you the $500 and send that money, less a service charge, to the jeweler. But a card that says you have such a relationship is not money, just as your debit card is not money. Mackerel could be used to buy services from other prisoners; they could also be eaten. Houses, office buildings, land, works of art, and many other commodities serve as a means of storing wealth and value.

The benefits were often less noticeable than the costs, particularly in times of deflation or in recessions. During World War I, countries participating in the war needed a way to finance themselves, and the gold standard forbade them to do so, since printing more money requires a proportional ownership to gold. Hence, most countries began printing new money to finance the war afterwards, making their currencies free floating from 1914 to 1920s. The money that is easily accepted and convenient to carry anywhere and everywhere is known as fiat money.

Back then, governments melted gold and silver coins and mixed them with less valuable commodities like copper to produce more money. But once consumers and merchants caught on, the purchasing power of the newly minted coins dropped. Moreover, another way that can be use to explain the want for money is that people got used to paper money in the fractional reserve system. Once the metallic backing was removed, people continued to use money as they had become accustomed to. One argument for this thesis is that the fiat money systems that have worked best historically are the ones where the physical backing was removed slowly and secretly. A broader measure of money than M1 includes not only all of the spendable balances in M1, but certain additional assets termed “near monies”. Near monies cannot be spent as readily as currency or checking account money, but they can be turned into spendable balances with very little effort or cost. Near monies include what is in savings accounts and money-market mutual funds.

  • Commodity money requires no recognition or approval from the government.
  • Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that is created and stored on the blockchain.
  • Since the US dollar (the world’s reserve currency) is not backed by gold anymore, it essentially has no intrinsic value, which calls for a different approach to be taken when studying money as a commodity that holds value.
  • Money made specialization practical; otherwise, it was more efficient for people to perform all the activities that they needed to survive.
  • Because of the chronic shortages of money of all types in the colonies, these cards were accepted readily by merchants and the public and circulated freely at face value.

The decisive characteristic of commodity money is the employment for monetary purposes of a commodity in the technological sense. Here the deciding factor is the stamp, and it is not the material bearing the stamp that constitutes the money, but the stamp itself. The nature of the material that bears the stamp is a matter of quite minor importance. Credit money, finally, is a claim falling due in the future that is used as a general medium of exchange. Money is a type of asset in an economy that is used to buy goods and services from other people. A commodity is a physical item that is readily interchangeable with another item of the same type. Intrinsic value means that the commodity has value even if it is not used as money.
commodity money and fiat money
This period was the first era of globalisation, with an increasingly large flow of trade, capital, and people between countries. A fixed exchange rate would be beneficial to facilitate the trades between countries, hence more and more countries were switching to use the same measurement standard. As banknotes only represent a peg to its underlying metal coins, the intrinsic value of it is still determined by the demand and supply of its underlying metal. Some metals are too easy to be mined (e.g. copper), hence they are gradually losing their status as ideal money. This left only two candidates since they were hard to be mined, silver and gold. Countries like the UK and the US went on to embrace the gold standard, a monetary system tying a standard unit of currency to the value of a certain amount of gold. When the Great Depression and two world wars severely affected the global economy, world leaders created an international monetary system positioning the US dollar as a global currency. Fiat money doesn’t link or “peg” to any physical reserves, such as gold. The bottom line is commodity money functions by establishing a value backed by a physical product that everyone assumes has a value, such as gold, silver, or tobacco. And when using commodity money for purchasing items, it becomes the money or currency accepted by all.
commodity money and fiat money
This situation took place over a period century, and that is probably the longest lasting fiat monetary system in the history of the world. M1 captures the most liquid components of the money supply, including currency held by the public and checkable deposits in banks. Money serves as a medium of exchange, a unit of account, a store of value, and a standard of deferred payment. If everyone claimed their debts all at the same time, there would be massive levels of deflation.

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(We will get to its definition soon.) First, money serves as a medium of exchange, which means that money acts as an intermediary between the buyer and the seller. Instead of exchanging accounting services for shoes, the accountant now exchanges accounting services for money. To serve as a medium of exchange, people must widely accept money as a method of payment in the markets for goods, labor, and financial capital. This study examines the behavior of money, inflation, and output under fiat and commodity standards to better understand how changes in monetary policy affect economic activity. Money growth, inflation, and output growth are also higher under fiat standards. In contrast, the study does not find that money growth is more highly correlated with output growth under one type of standard than under the other. Paper currency was the first type of fiat money widely used by people in traded goods and services. Modern fiat money comes in four basic varieties which are paper currency, metal coins, checking accounts, and electronic money. In the fiat monetary system, there is no such physical restrain on the amount of money that can be created.

During the period of the golden standard, there were banknotes – but we cannot define these as fiat money. That is because it is essentially backed by a commodity that has an intrinsic value. As people could trade the banknotes for gold, they had some value. The underlying value of commodity money is what builds people’s trust in it. Gold, silver, and tobacco all have uses outside of its use as a medium of exchange. So even if it was to be rejected by one store, it will have significant value elsewhere.

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