fiat currencies

We begin by presenting the explanation of money’s role in the economy embraced by most mainstream economists and policy analysts, based on the idea that money evolved out of the process of market exchange. The introduction of fractional reserve banking, in which banks lend out many times their money reserves, reduces both the inconvenience and the stability of commodity money. Combined with fiat money, it tends to create a financial system based largely on mutual confidence and prone to sudden, catastrophic collapses. Representative is a type of money that is issued by the government and backed by commodities such as precious metals like gold or silver. The value of this type of money is directly linked to the value of the asset that is backing the money. The additional $900 has been generated as debt by the bank and reflects commercial bank money.

Is Bitcoin a commodity money?

In 2015, the U.S. Commodities Trading Future Commission (CFTC) defined bitcoin and other virtual currencies as commodities under the U.S. Commodity Exchange Act.

In this situation, both sugar and coffee are commodities that have intrinsic values of their own and when exchanged for each other play the role of money. The overwhelming majority of cash forms with which people buy and sell nowadays lack any intrinsic value whatsoever. This is money that only contains any value because the government decrees it has the full faith and credit of the nation backing it. It works because members of society and businesses choose to accept it as their primary form of currency and means of exchanging goods and services. For example, it is now possible to transfer money from your savings account to your checking account using an automated teller machine , and then to withdraw cash from your checking account. Thus, many types of savings accounts are easily converted into currency.

Commodity Money Examples

Other examples of goods that have been used as commodity money include copper, corns, tea, shells, cigarettes, wine, etc. Several forms of commodity money were employed relative to the needs that certain economic circumstances created. Perfect examples of commodity money include a struck coin made of gold, a bushel of corn, and a pack of cigarettes in prison.

For thousands of years, people having been using commodities–such as precious metals, tobacco, and foodstuffs–as an asset to buy goods and services from other people. In times of economic turmoil, more people would rather accept commodity money instead of government-issued money. The value of fiat money is based largely on public faith in the issuer.

Commodity money

It was a useful store of value, it was durable, and it was widely accepted between nations. Later, in 550 B.C., under the order of King Croesus of Lydia, it went into full circulation. By contrast, other forms of money only derive value from the trust people place in it. For example, the $10 note in your pocket is unlikely to buy much in the unlikely event the US’ stops using it as its main currency. There are four main characteristics of commodity money – it’s durable, divisible, easily exchangeable, and rare. A commodity money is a physical good that has ‘intrinsic value’ – a use outside of its use as money.

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Fiat currencies rose to prominence in the early 20th century as governments sought to insulate our economies from the booms and busts of the economic cycles. Allowing the central banks to control the printing of money allowed countries to avoid society crushing depressions like those experienced in the early 1920s, or so the theory believes. Fiat money doesn’t link or “peg” to any physical reserves, such as gold. The recent rise of Bitcoin has recently brought all of these doubts into focus.

You also have M0, which is the monetary base in an economy, which covers the entire currency that is either at the hands of the public or in bank reserves. These rare Greek silver coins had the underlying value of the material they are made from and were thus commodity money. Gold coins, tobacco, and soybeans can all be used as commodity money. They are all characterized as having intrinsic value, which is found in their utility beyond means of exchange. Commodity money’s value is found in the intrinsic value of commodities.


The money has the government’s full faith and backing, no physical asset. Gold, for example, has an intrinsic value that almost everyone on the face of the Earth recognizes. Not really, but here are the pros and cons of commodity money versus fiat money. Fiat money gives central banks more control over the amount and frequency of credit extensions because the control of fiat money allows the banks to “print” more money. In economics, the monetary base (also base money, money base, high-powered money, reserve money, or, in the UK, narrow money) is a term relating to the money supply or the amount of money in the economy.

Commodity money is money whose value comes from a commodity of which it is made. Intrinsic Value – commodity GMT monies have an intrinsic value based on their physical properties, such as gold, oil, and silver. Where fiat money is only as valuable as the faith in the people that give it its value, gold, for example, has a utility; gold can also create other valuables like jewelry where a dollar bill has no other use other than spending. Lower inflation – because commodity money is based on a physical product, i.e., gold, it is less prone to inflation from the devaluation of the money. Gold is fairly finite money, and the government cannot create more whenever they want to, thus lessening inflation.

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Helene55 yesterday Coupons and tokens at businesses are also commodity money. For example, giving someone a gift card for a store you don’t like, but they do, can be a way of providing them with commodity money. Things like two for one coupons might also work if you know someone who really wants or needs a certain product for which you have a coupon that you don’t plan on using. Something that serves as commodity money only has to have value in itself, rather than being of use to the bearer. For example, there is little most people can actually do with a gold coin and, if someone is a smoker, a cigarette is of more practical use. The gold coin has a much higher value, though, as a jeweler or goldsmith would be able to make use of it to produce an expensive object.


Then, I can take the money I earn and pay for a variety of goods and services. Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in oureditorial policy. As financial assets other than checkable deposits have become more liquid, economists have had to develop broader measures of money that would correspond to economic activity.

  • The use of commodity money is similar to barter, but a commodity money provides a simple and automatic unit of account for the commodity which is being used as money.
  • They are a type of money as holders of fiduciary money can convert them into fiat or other types of money.
  • Commodity money is a medium of exchange that may become a commodity, useful in production or consumption.
  • Money is the collection of objects that are used as media of exchange.

Commodity money’s value, on the other hand, is based on the material it was manufactured with, such as gold or silver. Fiat money, therefore, does not have intrinsic value, while commodity money often does. Changes in public confidence in a government issuing fiat money may be enough to make the fiat currency worthless. So does all this mean that commodity-backed digital money — stablecoins backed by gold — will replace fiat currencies across the world?


Money communicates no worth; there remains no difference; the value is symbolic, whether gold, paper, or electronic. Money actually derives its value from the functions it allows, such as a medium of exchange, storehouses of wealth, or a unit of measurement. My grandparents used to say that money makes the world go around, but what do we know about the money we use today?

Fiat money is a medium of exchange that is only backed by the government. M0 is the monetary base in an economy and covers the entire currency that is either at the hands of the public or in bank reserves. Consider what happens when Lucy visits Bank A, and she deposits $1000 dollars in her LTC checking account. Bank A can keep $100 aside and use the rest to lend it to another client, John. The reserve requirement, in this case, is 10% of the deposit.

  • Its value is derived from its official recognition as a medium of exchange from government legislation.
  • In other words, it is like the money we use today, but has an actual value.
  • Other functions of money are to serve as a unit of account and as a store of value.
  • Commercial bank money refers to money in an economy that is created through debts issued by commercial banks.
  • Lower inflation – because commodity money is based on a physical product, i.e., gold, it is less prone to inflation from the devaluation of the money.

Economists measure the money supply because it affects economic activity. We want to include as part of the money supply those things that serve as media of exchange. However, the items that provide this function have varied over time. What makes something money is really found in its acceptability, not in whether or not it has intrinsic value or whether or not a government has declared it as such.

Debasement means that commodity money., typically metal coins, is devalued because there is less precious metal in the coin than the value stamped on its face. Governments may debase coins by adding copper, tin, or other less valuable alloys to coins as they are minted, while still saying they are worth (e.g., $1 in exchange). And so it was that the “Swiss” dinar for a period of about 10 years, even without government backing or any law establishing it as legal tender, served as northern Iraq’s fiat money.

commodity money. money is a medium of exchange that may become a commodity, useful in production or consumption. This is in contrast to fiat money, which is intrinsically useless. Some forms of commodity money may only fulfill the money role in very specific circumstances. Perhaps the best known example is the use of cigarettes as currency in prisons. With no cash available to prisoners, cigarettes can serve as a medium of exchange that avoids the need to rely on bartering for direct exchange of items.

Why is money a commodity?

Money is a commodity because of its value. Though not similar to traditional commodities, money finds its value in the foundational economic concepts of supply and demand.