5 Things that were Used Before Money was Invented

The oldest form of currency ever used in human history is believed to be commodity money. Commodity money is a type of ancient currency that is backed by a physical commodity with intrinsic value. Here are a few examples of some of the oldest forms of commodity money:

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In ancient agricultural societies, livestock, particularly cattle, were used as a form of currency. Cattle had intrinsic value as a source of food, labor, and trade, making them a practical early form of currency.


Agricultural societies also used grains, such as barley or wheat, as a medium of exchange. These grains could be stored and traded for goods and services.

Barley & Wheat as currency
Barley & Wheat as currency


Cowrie shells, which are small, glossy seashells, have been used as currency in various parts of the world, including Africa, Asia, and the Indian Ocean region. They were prized for their beauty and rarity.

Cowrie shells as a mode of payment
Cowrie shells as a mode of payment. Photo credit: Flickr

Metal Objects

Metal objects, such as tools or weapons, were used as early forms of currency in some ancient societies. These items had intrinsic value due to their usefulness.

Iron nails as payment
Iron nails as currency. Photo credit: pixabay


Salt was a valuable commodity in many ancient cultures and was used as a form of currency in some regions. The term “salary” is derived from the Latin word “salarium,” which was a payment made to Roman soldiers for the purchase of salt.

Salt As A Commodity Of Exchange
Salt was used as a commodity of exchange in past.


Spices, such as pepper, cloves, and cinnamon, were highly valued in the ancient world and were used as currency in trade.

Spices As Currency In Trade
Spices As Currency In Trade. Photo credit: Labyrinth

These early forms of commodity money had inherent value due to their practical uses, which made them suitable for facilitating trade and exchange. Over time, as societies evolved, these forms of currency gave way to standardized metal coins and, eventually, paper money, which are more convenient and efficient means of exchange.

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