Money, money, money.

Here are some interesting bits of toot that I have kept . . .Photobucket This big one isn't the top of a shovel. And this little one isn't a bracelet. PhotobucketThey're both forms of early African currency.
The top one is hoe currency, probably dating from 1800 and the bottom is a Manilla from around 1650. I like them because they are good looking but I'm also interested in money: in a theoretical way and in a greedy way. Differing ideas of worth is something I come up against all the time being out on the market. How one customer can say "Twenty pounds for that!? I'd give you two" (these customers are usually old men of the 'codger' variety) and then another customer strolls up and says "lovely, I'll take it".  Money and exchange and worth are things in such constant flux it can twist my brain around.
The manilla is made of some kind of copper alloy and I think the hoe currency is iron. At their time of use their value would be the same as the materials they're made of; meaning they might have been melted down and used. For this reason they're known as commodity money, they have an intrinsic worth, whereas my purse is crammed full of representative money (coppers mostly). Commodity money interests me, it seems quite instinctive and seems to spring up in times of need - like Prisoners of War using cigarettes as cash, I wonder whether we'll ever see any commodity currencies popping up round here (I bloody hope it's plant pots if we do).
The Manilla is also an amazing thing because it might not have been produced in Africa but exported there from here (Europe that is), it may also have played it's part in the slave trade, which feels a bit odd. I have them on my desk, something about their strong forms and history pleases me almost too much.
Top notch toot.


  1. This American Life did a really interesting programme based around the question "what is money?" Have a listen when you have a spare hour...
    (warning: if you are not already obsessed with This American Life, you may be about to be.)

  2. I'm listening to it now. Thank you. X