The History of Currency in 10 Different Countries

The History of Currency in 10 Different Countries

The History of Currency in 10 Different Countries

Even though there are short of 200 official fiat currencies today, throughout history there have been thousands of currencies that were once used for trade. The above infographic documents the history of currency in 10 different countries of significance.

There are some interesting lessons to be learned from this lengthy and often tumultuous history. For example, the Romans were really the first to debase their currency in a significant way, and many historians believe that this was a key factor in contributing to the downfall of the empire. Unfortunately, we have not learned from tragic events such as this (which helped cause the Dark Ages), and countless other currencies have also bit the dust since then.

One study of 775 fiat currencies found the average lifespan of a currency to be just 27 years. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 20% currencies failed through hyperinflation
  • 21% were destroyed through war
  • 12% were destroyed through independence
  • 24% were “monetarily reformed”
  • 23% are still in circulation

It seems like a foregone conclusion that some of the currencies listed in the above infographic may not exist in 10 years, or perhaps they get “monetarily reformed”. In any case, it’s worth noting that in today’s interconnected world, it may be easier to stave off the death of one currency through global intervention. However, systematically there is far greater risk. If one currency fails, the possibility also exists for many others to share the same fate through the domino effect.

Investors should study currency history, and as part of a smart portfolio they should protect their hard earned wealth and savings in a defensive fashion. Black swans do happen, and even the crisis in the tiny country of Cyprus had people reeling. The potential for something much bigger is inevitably a possibility – it is just a matter of when and how.

Original graphic from: ZH


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  • toghon temur

    China had older historical banknotes than most of the countries mentioned here. I think it would be too short just to mention from 1930 onwards. While the CGU ( custom gold units ) was not exactly currency per se, they were created to pay for custom duties. Way back then , they used gold as the standard to calculate the import duties levied on the importers. Hence CGU were created , user need to buy CGU using their Yuan ( ROC ) , but as time went by, people began to use CGU as currency as well , perhaps due to the perceived value was pegged to gold price. Republican era China up from 1911 to 1949 , Chinese paper currencies were printed enormously in numbers and varierties , and issued by provincial banks, central bank , state banks , and even japanese controlled puppet banknotes. The Republican Yuan at that time was backed by then silver reserve but Invasion by the Japanese nearly depleted China’s silver reserve at that time, both by the needs of war and also systematic indirect draining by unfair exchange imposed by the Japanese authorities who was issuing alternative Yuan printed by the Japanese controlled puppet banks. The silver backed Yuan were sold to the international market in exchange for USD which was used to purchase raw material essential for their war effort.

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