Shelling Out: The Origins of Money


…many kinds of wealth transfers – one-way and mutual, voluntary and coerced – face transaction costs. In voluntary trades both parties gain; a truly free gift is usually an act of kin altruism. These transactions create value for one or both parties as much as the physical act of making something. Tribute benefits the victor and a judgment of damages can prevent further violence as well as benefiting the victim. Inheritance made humans the first animals to pass wealth to their next-generation kin. These heirlooms could in turn be used as collateral or payment in trade for goods, for food to stave off starvation, or to pay a marriage bride price. Whether the costs of making these transfers – transaction costs – are low enough to make the transfers worthwhile is another matter. Collectibles were crucial in making these kinds of transactions possible for the first time. Continue reading “Shelling Out: The Origins of Money”