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Cold Sea

Who needs gold and silver.

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Cold Sea






There's a tiny island called Yap out in the Pacific Ocean. Economists love it because it helps answer this really basic question: What is money?

There's no gold or silver on Yap. But hundreds of years ago, explorers from Yap found limestone deposits on an island hundreds of miles away. And they carved this limestone into huge stone discs, which they brought back across the sea on their small bamboo boats.

It's unclear if these stones started as money. But at some point the people on Yap realized what most societies realize. They needed something that everyone agrees you can use to pay for stuff.

And like many societies, the people of Yap took the thing they had that was pretty — their version of gold — and decided that was money.

A piece of stone money was really valuable; you wouldn't use it for some everyday purchase. You'd use it for something big — a daughter's dowry, say.

"If somebody was in real dire straits, and something happened to their crop of food or they were running low on provisions and they had some stone money, they might trade," says Scott Fitzpatrick, an anthropologist at North Carolina State University who is an expert on Yap.

One key thing about this money: It was really heavy. A big piece could weigh more than a car.

As a result, this very concrete form of money quickly made the jump to being something very abstract.

"They often talk about the stones themselves not changing hands at all," Fitzpatrick says. "In fact, most of the time they wouldn't."

So imagine there's this great big stone disc sitting in a village. One person gives it to another person. But the stone doesn’t move. It's just that everybody in the village knows the stone now has a new owner.

In fact, the stone doesn't even need to be on the island to count as money.

One time, according to the island's lore, a work crew was bringing a giant stone coin back to yap on a boat. And just before they got back to the island, they hit a big storm. The stone wound up on the bottom of the ocean.

The crew made it back to the island and told everybody what happened. And everybody decided that the piece of stone money was still good — even though it was on the bottom of the ocean.

"So somebody today owns this piece of stone money, even though nobody's seen it for over 100 years or more,” Fitzgerald says.

This system, in the end, feels really familiar. If you go online to pay your electric bill, what’s really changing in the world?

Some digits in your bank account get shifted around, along with some digits in the power company’s bank account.

In other words, that stone money on the bottom of the ocean that you used to own now belongs to the power company.



I copied and pasted this from E-Sylum. I just hope that when the apocalyptic economic meltdown, so wished for by conspiracy theorists, happens, we don't end up with Yap stone money. We won't have anything concrete to exchange when trading - heaven forbid.

Edited by Cold Sea

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I think our little Yorkie comes from Yap!


But I hope we never have to revert to using stone money - would be a hell of a mission to go grocery shopping!


Thanks for a most interesting posting!

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Yap, Yap!


Excellent article on Yap money at this link: The Island Of Stone Money : Planet Money : NPR (includes the pic used in the opening post)


Not sure where the link on the web is, but in recent years the government marked the YAP stones of villages that had not paid their hut taxes as owned by the government. The indigenous people were so indoctrinated that these immovable stones had value that they promptly repaid their taxes to get the government ownership marks removed.. and we think we are silly when it comes to FIAT funny money!


No wonder we go for something more portable and historically valuable like silver and gold!

Kind regards


Scott Balson

Edited by ndoa18

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There is no distinction between money and non-money. People try to make such a distinction but it is purely artificial. Gold and silver have been the most widely used forms of money but here is no reason whatsoever that thy need to be the only ones.

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