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Alternative Currencies in the World

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While living green is extremely important another important piece of all of our lives is the “green” that helps us afford and take care of the world we live in. When we think of currency, we tend to think of paper bills and a handful of metal coins (which, as this article points out, is an oversimplification). Now, with the growth and rise of globalization, you could just as easily imagine currency as a few numbers on a computer that are constantly shifting over a global marketplace as goods and services are able to move more freely from country to country, due to incredible advances in technology that bring the world closer to each other. However, not all currency fits into this very specific mold. Indeed, there are dozens of other examples of currency that exist around the world, in one way or another. Some of these examples have been here for thousands of years, while others are mutual to this new age. Here are some alternative currencies that are still used around the world…

Classic bartering

Trading one item for another is at the heart of why we have currency. However, the idea is that a common currency is supposed to simplify the process of trade by creating a general standard of value. Regardless, though, the oldest way to trade is to simply barter something that you have for something that you want. This is done, perhaps casually, by nearly every culture on the planet, and is the most common way that we bypass using a mainstream currency to purchase the things that we need.


Another one of the most popular alternative forms of currency is a precious metal that has been a major cause of envy and greed for years: gold. Only decades ago, much of the world’s paper currency was backed up by gold (in what we call the gold standard). This served to restrain inflation by putting the value of currency onto something tangible, such as gold. However, gold itself is not locked in at a particular value, and is subject to supply and demand changes, just like any other form of currency. However, still to this day, when citizens get worried about the state of their nation’s currency, there will always be those who transfer their wealth to gold.


Despite the long history of gold, it is by no means the oldest currency on the planet. Aside from simple bartering, the longest used currency in the world is actually the cowry shell, which was the first general currency to be used in many places across the Orient. To this day, certain small communities in Eastern Asia will still use the cowry shell as a form of currency. Admittedly, though, these places don’t have much of an impact on the global economy.

Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies)

The face of alternative currency in the digital age belongs to Bitcoin, a strictly digital currency that was started by a group of online libertarians and anarcho-capitalists. Nobody knows exactly who created Bitcoin, as the programmer used the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. The point of Bitcoin was to have a decentralized currency that wasn’t affected by the monetary policies of global government. The system essentially creates digital assets that can be used to purchase goods and services, as it is verified by a secure third-party system for both parties. Because of its decentralization, Bitcoin is often called a cryptocurrency. While it wasn’t the first of its kind, it definitely became the largest, and there have been many others since then.

Localized currencies

There are plenty of small communities in the world, many of them in Africa and parts of Asia, which use their own unique currency for local transactions. The major benefit of this is that it is able to create a closed economy that keeps its currency circulating from within. This is great for some small communities, as it keeps their currency within their own economy, since it is impossible to use it for transactions with the rest of the world. However, this also begets the problem with using localized currencies. The world today is moving further and further towards globalization, and there’s no way to reverse that trend. Eventually, you are going to have to interact with other societies and civilizations, and mingle with them economically. Having a localized currency can put you at a severe disadvantage, as your citizens will have a harder time transitioning to the finances of a global economy.

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