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What is Money?
How Money Evolved
Money Timeline
Economists define money to be any commodity that is used as a "means of payment," whatever we exchange for the goods and services that we buy. Another important role that money plays is to act as a "unit of account." This means that the prices of all other commodities are measured in terms of money.
Throughout history, many different commodities have served as money. Native Americans in what we now know as New England used wampum (shells), early Virginia settlers used tobacco leaves, and prisoners of war in a World War II camp used cigarettes. Western Europe evolved a system of money based on gold and silver coins. Through their colonies, the gold standard spread to most of the world by the end of the 19th century.
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Historical Monetary Units
The Gold Standard