At some point, way back in the mists of time, humanity started to get pretty bored working out if their neighbour owed them one turnip and 7 goats or two turnips and 5 goats. Instead, a form of currency which you could apply a relative value to was invented. Punishments for not delivering on demand were invented – like being placed in the stocks or having a fun day out in the gibbet.
Precious metals were a prime candidate for this new fangled thing called cash but not everyone agreed. Here are 3 really bizarre alternatives that were unleashed upon the world:
Ever heard of Yap? It’s one of those places that is easily lost – if you can even find it in the first place. The island, located in the Pacific Ocean, covers about 39 square miles which is considerably smaller than London but a hell of a lot bigger than the Vatican City (making it the perfect retirement destination for former Pontiff’s). In 2003, the population of the island was about 6,300 people.
6,300 people who spent their lives collecting rocks. But not any old stones. You see, Yap was made famous by the locals choice in currency – really big stones. It’s roughly the same of using the gold standard – the more you have the more you’re worth. But only on Yap because, after all, they’re just bits of rock.
Size was important – the bigger the stone the more it was worth. Sort of like the outsized aeroplane seats that are now appearing with alarming regularity: the bigger your arse the more it’s worth to the airlines! Stones over 15 feet in diameter and 2 tons in weight have been found discarded around the island. If you were the lucky owner of one of these babies then you were the Yap equivalent of Steve Jobs albeit with some seriously cool dance floor moves.
Not surprisingly, the inhabitants of Yap eventually moved to a currency less likely to cause horrific injuries when trying to get change from the local butcher’s shop – the dollar.
Although abandoned, many examples of the stone currency can be found around the island and is still used in some more traditional exchanges (dowery’s and the buying of land). Oh, and crushing all enemies that stand before you.
Mardis Gras, one of the biggest party events in the American social calendar, first arrived in the late 1600’s. Originally a French Catholic tradition, it was imported with the Le Moyne brothers who were sent by King Louis XIV to defend France’s claim on what are now the states of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Which kind of sidestepped the fact that the native Indians were already there.
In the grand tradition of doing things that have little to no meaning, the French pioneers managed to convince vast swathes of natives to sell their land for small quantities of coloured beads. Oh, they also convinced many a naïve Indian lady to flash their breasts for far less than they’d be paid for a private pole dance.
The landing spot for the Gallic heroes was officially named Point du Mardis Gras in 1699. Now, just in case you’re not sure, this, quite literally means “Mardis Gras Point”. It’s fair to say that you shouldn’t try this at home – people were far more accommodating to crappy names in those days and your attempts to rename your house, “Funky Coolsville” will only meet with wails of laughter.
So, history aside, following in the grand tradition of stealing Indian lands in return for some plastic beads, women attending Mardis Gras are rewarded with huge quantities of plastic for entertainment such as bearing their breasts and, err, bearing their breasts.
You know what that means? Some lucky women will be incredibly rich but only for a day. Literally. You see, as the Indians found out hundreds of years ago, the day after they accepted their new found riches they were effectively bankrupt. For the other 364 days of the year, the beads are worthless.
Space: the final frontier. Playground for psychotic starship captains and lovers of female aliens. It’s the opposite end of the technological spectrum to Yap but mankind has been planning for its conquest since the telescope was invented. After all, thanks to religious scholars, we already know that Earth is the centre of the universe in the same way the office psychopath thinks that everything revolves around him
Given that we’ve known about the vastness of space for a very long time, it’s pretty surprising that the concept of an intergalactic currency has only recently been invented. Think about it: there’s a good chance there’s life out there somewhere. Has nobody ever bothered to consider how we’re going to encourage E.T to part with vast tracts of his homeland in return for worthless currency?
Actually, yes – they have. Invented by scientists from the National Space Centre at the University of Leicester, we have the QUID (Quasi Universal Intergalactic Denomination). Some serious thought has gone into the design of the QUID. The coins have rounded edges to prevent them from damaging equipment should anybody be stupid enough to use the money as a way of showing their dissatisfaction (which takes away half the fun of a ‘friendly’ football match).
There are obvious flaws in this mind-blowing plan for intergalactic, financial domination. First, apart from a few deranged astronauts and cosmonauts, no humans actually live in space. This means there’s nobody traveling to distant worlds just so that they can say, “Accept the money and hand over your homeland or the mighty boom stick will strike you dead!”
Ultimately, we’ll have a few scientists who, in interstellar terms, are god damned gazillionaires. But only in QUIDS. Which means they’re worth less than a bucket full of yak urine.