What can I get for it?
In the last installment we learned about the growth of towns and the growth of various trades such as carpentry, weaving and blacksmithing. Imagine being a potter during that time. Each day the potters make one or two pots. At the end of a few weeks the potter has more pots than he could ever use or need. The fact is, the potter has a surplus of pots. What could he do with this surplus? Trade them of course for something from another tradesperson! For instance he could trade some of his pots for warm blankets from the weaver. He could trade pots with Jack the farmer for beans and corn. Likewise, George the carpenter might repair a wagon in exchange for some tools from the blacksmith. Eventually, merchants (forerunners of today’s sales people!) would travel great distances to find things that were not grown or made at home. The merchants would bring these goods home and people would trade local goods with the merchant for the goods he had brought from far away.
A fair deal?
Bartering was easy at first when there were only a few things to trade. It was also easy because people readily agreed on what could be traded for what. But, as the range of goods and services increased, bartering got more complicated. With hundreds of items on the market, it became more difficult to decide what could be traded for what. Did three camels have the same value as a tent? Was the shoeing of 4 horses equivalent in value to 4 bolts of silk brought from far away lands? Which was worth more – a handcrafted table or 3 finely woven blankets? People had different ideas about the value of items and this caused problems with the bartering system. In fact, sometimes a person would trade for something they didn’t want in the hope that in the future they could trade that item for something they did want. Another problem with the bartering system was that people had to carry around everything they wanted to trade – this could get quite difficult. It wasn’t long before people began looking for easier ways to make a trade.
Shells, Salt and Stone
Looking for easier ways to make a trade, people came up with the idea of using a medium of exchange. The money we use today is a medium of exchange but at this point in our story money has not yet been invented so, what did people use? Almost anything! A medium of exchange chosen by a group of people was usually something that was abundant in their home environment and that they agreed had a specific value. For example, many cultures used shells. In this case everything had a value measured in shells. A shirt for example might have a value of 2 shells, a hat 1 shell and so on. Whatever was bought was paid for in shells. In many parts of the world salt was used as a medium of exchange. Salt was valuable because it was needed to preserve and add flavour to food. Other items that were used around the world included tea leaves, feathers, seeds, fish, camels, elephant tail bristles and even dead rats! Yap stone money, also know as “rai”, was a unique form of currency used by the people of Yap Island. Yap stones were made of aragonite. Aragonite is not found on Yap island, which meant that people had to travel to another island to quarry the stones and bring them back. The stone was scarce, difficult to quarry and the skill and effort required to produce a yap stone combined to create their value. The stones were round with a hole in the middle so that the stone could be moved with a long pole. Yap stones came in a variety of sizes with some as large at 12 feet in diameter and weighing as much as 225 kilograms (try fitting one of those in your wallet!) Yap stones were mainly used as a type of ceremonial money. For example, they were often put outside a house to display the owner’s wealth and they were also used for political payments, such as purchasing support of a neighbouring tribe. Yap stones are still used for ceremonial transactions today. Wampum beads were made from different types of shells and were used as a medium of exchange in early Canada by the Iroquois and their neighbours. Purple and white beads were strung together into a belt. A string of wampum was often given by a buyer to a seller after a bargain had been made. When Europeans arrived in Canada they adopted wampum as a means of exchange. Everything was valued in wampum from beaver skins to household goods and food. Next up: Minting and Printing Newspaper Activity You have probably bartered. When you traded video games or collector cards you were bartering. How did you decide what made a fair trade? Work with a partner. Your teacher will assign you a category. Review today’s newspaper for pictures, words in headlines, and ads that depict a product or products within your category. Cut at least 10 of them out. Then meet with other pairs to trade one or more of your goods for one or more of their goods. Your goal is to collect at least one item from each category: • Entertainment (televisions, e-readers, tablets, cameras, DVD players and other entertainment devices) • Other electronics (computers, cell phones and accessories) • Vehicles • Household Items (furniture, furnace, cleaning services, food) • Personal Services/Entertainment (hairdressing, spas, dental/
movies, theatre productions, community events) Regroup as a class and discuss: What difficulties did you experience when bartering? How did you determine what made a fair trade? In your opinion, is bartering a workable method of acquiring goods/services? Explain your position. Extension: Research where and how bartering is used in the world today.
After the first installment of Money $1.01 you came up with a name for your fundraising plan and brainstormed a list of items needed by your chosen school. Review that list. Prioritize the items on it according to those that are most needed to those that are least needed. Then, research the approximate cost of each of the top 5 items. As a class, determine if your fundraising efforts could realize enough money for any or all of the top 5 items. On the basis of this, set a fundraising goal. How much money are you hoping to raise? What kind of visual could you use to track your fundraising results? How about a thermometer, a cutout figure climbing a mountain, or an odometer on a website? Use your imagination. Sketch a picture of your tracking device or write a paragraph to describe it.