The Story of
the Coin Press

Pressing On...

For Teachers

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It's hard to imagine our world without money, isn't it? A long time ago there were no coins. There was no such thing as money. Before money was invented people had to get their food, clothing and other needs by trading things. There is a special name for this kind of trading. The name is barter. The word barter comes from a French word, barater, which means "to trade." When you swap baseball cards with a friend or trade your chocolate pudding for a cookie at lunchtime you are bartering because you are exchanging something you have for something you want.

People traded some of the things they didn't need for things they wanted or needed. Even then people had different jobs and skills. Some people were good hunters, some were better farmers than others, some people made beautiful clay pots, some were skilled carpenters, and so on. There were many different ways in which these people bartered, or traded, for things they needed.

The good hunter might trade 10 rabbits to the carpenter for the carpenter's promise to fix his roof. The farmer might trade a fat pig to the potter for pots to cook in. A goat might be traded for some tools. Perhaps the shoemaker would trade a pair of shoes for sacks of grain that his wife could make bread from.

Most of the time, bartering was a good way of getting things. But sometimes there were problems. What happened when you had something to trade but nobody wanted it? What happened when the traders couldn't agree on what was a fair trade? People had to agree as to how many eggs would equal a sack of grain or how many fish were enough to trade for a pot. What if you had something to trade that almost everybody wanted? Then it was easy to make a trade! So people began to use certain objects as money.