What Was Used as Money in Ancient Times?

In ancient times, the concept of money was quite different from what we are accustomed to today. Rather than using paper currency or coins, people used a variety of items as a medium of exchange. Let’s take a look at some of the things that were used as money in ancient times.


One of the earliest forms of currency was shells. In many coastal societies, various types of shells were used as a form of currency.

These shells were often strung together and used as necklaces or bracelets. The cowrie shell, in particular, was widely used in Africa and Asia.

Barter System

Before the advent of currency, people relied on the barter system to trade goods and services. In this system, people exchanged goods or services directly without using any form of currency. This system was prevalent in agricultural societies where people exchanged crops for other goods.

Metal Objects

As civilizations became more advanced, metal objects such as bronze and copper were used as money. These objects were often shaped into rings or other decorative forms and were widely accepted as a medium of exchange.

Cowrie Shells

In many parts of Africa and Asia, cowrie shells were widely used as money. These small shells were collected from the sea and then traded for food, clothing, and other necessities.


The first official coins were minted in Lydia (present-day Turkey) around 600 BC. These coins were made from electrum, a natural alloy of gold and silver. Over time, coins became more standardized and began to be made from precious metals such as gold and silver.

Paper Money

Paper money was first developed in China during the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD). This paper money was not backed by any physical commodity such as gold or silver but was instead backed by the government’s promise to pay the bearer in precious metals.


In conclusion, money has taken many forms throughout history. From shells to paper money, the concept of currency has evolved over time to meet the needs of society. Today, we rely on paper currency and digital transactions, but it is important to remember the fascinating history of money and how it has shaped our world.