The cowrie shell has been used as a currency in China, Africa and Arabia, although as supplies from the ocean ran out people manufactured their own versions. Perhaps the first instance of fake currency.
RAI STONE MONEY OF YAP:
These stones aren’t very practical in today’s terms, as they need to be moved by several people using a pole through the hole in the centre, but they are very precious in the Pacific islands of Micronesia. The limestone was actually imported from neighboring Palau.
Back in medieval Russia, squirrel pelts were commonly exchanged for goods, although in the interests of good taste we haven’t pictured one here. Apparently they are still traded in Finland today.
ISLAMIC STATE COINS:
Islamic State has begun minting its own coins, according to recent photos posted on social media. The gold coins are based on Iraqi dinar designs from the ancient Caliphate (Islamic government) of Uthman. The seven wheat stalks is a Quranic reference.
KATANGA CROSSES AND KISSI MONEY:
Africa had its own unique metal money including the Katanga cross (pictured above), which was cast from copper. West African countries also used kissi pennies, which are strips of iron bound together by twisting, hammering, making into a blade and then making into points.
During the devastating events of the First World War and its aftermath, Germany could no longer produce metal coins in quantities so had to resort to ‘notgeld’, or emergency money. This was produced on anything from paper to playing cards to strips of leather and pieces of wood.
CHANNEL ISLANDS GERMAN CURRENCY:
The Channel Islands were the only British land occupied by German forces during the Second World War. With currency in short supply (partly because occupying troops were taking coins as souvenirs), the islanders had to resort to using specially created money created by their German occupiers.
ZAIRE'S HEADLESS NOTES:
Follow the overthrowing of President Mobutu in 1997, the government of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) faced a shortage of currency while new notes were printed. So they simply punched the deposed president’s face out of the old notes in the interim.
TRANSNISTRIA'S STAMPED NOTES:
When the state of Transnistria first broke away from Moldova following the collapse of the USSR, it found an ingenious way to make its own temporary currency: simply stick its own postage stamps on old Soviet banknotes.
Disney began issuing its own currency in 1987 which could be spent at its theme parks in California and Florida. They can now be spent at its US resorts, on cruise bookings, at US Disney stores and in parts of Disney’s private island Castaway Cay. Change is given in US currency.
Currency has now gone digital with the arrival of Bitcoin and its ilk. It’s not physical money and it’s not produced by a central entity; instead the ledger of who’s spent what, known as the blockchain, is managed by users, who are known as miners and rewarded by payment in bitcoin. The value of the currency has fluctuated wildly, although early adopters who bought cheap made a fortune as it sparked a virtual gold rush.