Was money always coins & paper bills?

Penny: Hello? Can anybody see me? I’m down here. Hello? Oh, I think somebody’s going to pick me up. Finally, yes and no. What do you got to do to get noticed in this town? Oh, there’s somebody who looks curious. Hello? You who, look down.

Narrator: Oh, look, a penny on the ground.

Penny: They say if you pick me up, it’s good luck.

Narrator: Really

Penny: Yeppers.

Billy: Don’t trust her.

Narrator: Huh? Who said that?

Billy: It’s me, Billy. The dollar bill, you’ve got stepped in your packet. I don’t want her in here. She’s a bad penny.

Penny: Hey, don’t listen to him.

Narrator: Actually, I find it odd that you are both talking.

Billy: Well, I find it odd that you don’t have a wallet. Instead, I’m jammed in your pocket with tissues, your cell phone, keys to crayons, some ketchup packets, and a super bouncy ball you found in the park. There’s no room for a penny.

Penny: Oh, blaze, what harm could one little penny do?

Billy: You’ve been lying on the ground and who knows where you were before that? You probably filthy.

Penny: Yeah, so are you

Narrator: Come to think of it? I don’t know where either of you have been or any of my money for that matter, but how dirty is my money and why are certain small metal circles and green printed paper so valuable in the first place? How did we end up with the money we have today?

Billy: No idea.

Penny: Me neither.

Narrator: Sounds like it’s time for another whiff of history and science on

Who Smarted. Who smarted, who smart? Is it you? Is it me? Is it science or history? Listen up everyone. We make smart. Lots of fun on Who Smarted.

Narrator: Hey, Smarty Pants. What kind of money do you use? In other words, what’s your country’s currency? Is it the dollar, the peso, the pound? Go ahead, shout out your answers. Ah, I’m hearing a lot of dollars, some euros, pesos, yen. The world is home to a large variety of currencies. Can you guess how many? Is it
(a) 75
(b), 180, or
(c) 2050?

The United Nations recognizes 180 currencies around the world, all with different shapes, sizes, colors, and names. The oldest currency still in use today is the British pound, which has been exchanged for more than a thousand years, and the most widely used currency is, why it’s the US dollar.

Billy: Of course, you don’t get widely used if you’re stuffed, forgotten in a pocket.

Narrator: I’m sorry.

Penny: What’s so bad about this pocket? It’s cozy next to all these tissues.

Billy: I can’t believe you picked up this penny.

Penny: Hey, a penny saved. Is a penny earned.

Narrator: Well, I couldn’t just leave it there laying on the ground. What about you Smarty Pants? Do you pick up coins if you find them on the ground outside

Penny: Or inside the house or under the couch cushions? Besides coins like me are something you can treasure for a long time, unlike Billy over here.

Billy: Seriously?

Penny: Yep. Sorry to say you bills aren’t as durable or long lasting as coins. Bills can rip or break apart as they’re used over and over again.

Narrator: Hey, Smarty Pants, do you know how long the average dollar bill lasts? Is it about
(a) 15 years,
(b) eight years, or
(c) six years?

Penny: I know the answer is (c) less than six years, but do you know how long a coin like me can last?

Billy: Let me guess more than six years.

Penny: Try 30 years. Take that to the bank.

Billy: Okay, but you still won’t be worth much. What can you even buy with a penny?

Penny: We coins may be small, but we have a big place in history. Tell him trusting narrator,

Narrator: Smarty Pants, which came first? Coins or bills? If you said coins, you’re right.

Penny: And before we came around, people used all kinds of wacky things to buy stuff.

Narrator: Really? Like what?

Penny: Well, way back in the olden days, I’m talking thousands of years ago, people just gave things to others in their community. Kinda like how you give out cupcakes to your whole class on your birthday.

Billy: Yum, yum, yum.

Penny: But at some point people started exchanging things instead. For example, let’s pretend Billy here owned a bakery. What’s something I might want from Billy

Billy: Bread?

Narrator: Oh, is that why money is called bread or dough? Because people used actual bread or dough like money,

Penny: Not quite. Money is often seen as essential to living just like basic foods like bread. Anyway, Billy the baker, what are you selling today? Muffins. Croissants. Cinnamon buns,

Billy: Bread.

Penny: Not the most exciting bakery, but fine. Back in the day, I’d go up to Billy and say, I want a basket of your finest bread. To which Billy would say,

Billy: What will you give me for it?

Penny: In exchange, I will give you this rooster.

Billy: A rooster. I’m a dollar bill. What am I going to do with a rooster?

Penny: You get the point. In fact, all kinds of livestock like roosters, cows, sheep, and even camels were very popular in these exchanges.

Billy: Oh, I’ll take a camel wade. One hump or two

Narrator: Smarty Pants. Do you know what this type of exchange is called? Is it
(a) gift giving
(b) fleecing or
(c) bartering?
The answer is (c) bartering, which is another word for trading.

Speaker 5: Ah.

Penny: Now say I see Billy the next week and I don’t have a rooster.

Billy: Do you have a camel?

Penny: No, but I still want a delicious cookie.

Billy: We only have bread,

Penny: Fine bread instead of an animal, I give him something smaller like a seashell, and I say, you can give it back to me later to get a rooster. But instead, he gives the seashell to somebody else for maybe an orangutan.

Billy: Why on earth would I want and an orangutan?

Penny: Just hear me out. Billy tells the orangutan owner that she can use that seashell to get a rooster from me later, with this promise the little seashell gained value and eventually people started using things like seashells to get stuff.

Narrator: I see people turned things into money because it represented the value of something that they wanted or needed.

Penny: Exactly. Feathers, limestone, beets, even whale teeth were used. Then kings and other rulers wanted a piece of the action. Guess what they came up with? Coins.

Speaker 5: Ah,

Penny: Historians say the first coins used as a kingdom’s currency appeared in what is now Turkey about 2,700 years ago. Rulers and other places like Greece, Persia, India, and China also started issuing coins back then and we haven’t stopped since.

Billy: Even though coins are a problem.

Penny: Hey,

Billy: There’s a reason why rulers came up with bills like myself to replace coins.

Narrator: Smarty Pants, can you guess what the problem with coins is? Think about the difference between coins and bills.

Penny: Coins are shinier. They can roll across the table, you can flip them

Billy: Yeah, forget all that. Look at Penny and me, I’m a dollar bill, you can fold me up stuff me in your pocket and forget about me. Right Narrator?

Narrator: I already apologized about that.

Billy: Now Penny over here. You’d need 100 of her to equal one of me. But let me ask you, do you think you’d notice 100 pennies in your pocket? Not only would all that change be super noisy, it would be pretty heavy.

Narrator: Talk about some heavy metal,

Billy: And that’s just for a buck. Imagine carrying $50 in coins or a few hundred, in order to carry around larger sums of money and not rip your pockets, lighter bills like me were created. First people made bills with leather and animal skins, some of that leather came from male deer, which are called bugs.

Narrator: Ah, is that why dollars are often referred to as bucks?

Billy: You’re right on the money narrator. Next came paper currency, it was introduced in the country that invented paper.

Narrator: Smarty Pants, do you remember where paper first came from? Was it
(a) China
(b), Greece,
(c), Egypt, or
(d) Babylonia?
The answer right after this. Quick break.

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Narrator: Now back to who smarted. So where was paper invented? Was it
(a) China
(b), Greece,
(c) Egypt, or
(d) paper Colonia?

Did you say (a) China? Great job?

Billy: Paper money was introduced in China about 1300 years ago, but it took nearly a thousand years for it to catch on in Europe and other parts of the globe. Today, paper money works because it’s easy to use and it’s given value by world leaders who stand behind it. In fact, many world leaders past and present are actually on paper money.

Penny: Whoa.

Billy: Paper money comes in many colors and in some countries many sizes. So, you can easily tell the difference between 1, 5, or even 20, and there are all kinds of things within it to prevent counterfeiting.

Penny: Counterfeiting?

Billy: Yep. It means making fake money and it’s always been a problem.

Narrator: It’s the reason why money is full of complicated designs that are not easy to copy. In colonial times, Benjamin Franklin would deliberately misspell the word Pennsylvania on the real money he printed, hoping that those making illegal copies would spell the state’s name correctly, exposing them as fakes. These days, a lot of bills use special ink and security threads that are woven into the bills and even hidden images printed on the bill that can only be seen if you hold it under a special light, because of this money today is very difficult to copy.

Penny: I don’t have that problem. You can’t just print coins on paper.

Billy: True, but your filthy, I can’t believe the narrator picked you up off the sidewalk.

Penny: Oh yeah. You are filthy too.

Narrator: Let’s just say you’re both right. Smarty Pants, while a coin may look nice and shiny and a fresh bill all nice and crisp, the fact is that money is gross.

Penny: Huh?

Narrator: How gross? Let’s start with a little quiz. About how often does a $1 bill move from one person to another over the course of a year? Is it
(a) 30 times
(b), 65 times, or
(c) 110 times?

The answer is (c). Which means that the $1 bill in your pocket could have had 110 separate owners over the last year and the year before that, and the year before that.

Penny: Whoa.

Narrator: But let’s say it’s just 1-year-old. Think about it, that’s 110 different stories, 110 different things bought with it and 110 different ways for it to get covered in germs.

Billy: At least I wasn’t picked up off the sidewalk like Penny.

Penny: Well, germs don’t like me as much as they like you.

Narrator: Is that true? Smarty Pants, which do you think gets dirtier? Dollar bills or coins? If you said coins, you are wrong. While a coin is said to be 10 times dirtier than a surface you can eat off of, bills are even worse. Scientists say there are more germs on paper money than on a household toilet, and they found disgusting things on both bills and coins, including viruses, bacteria, dog spittle, and yes, even poop. Fortunately, it’s usually not enough to make you sick and your skin is very good at protecting you from disease. Just wash your hands often and never, ever put your money where your mouth is.

Billy: You’re better off using money to buy food.

Narrator: Good idea. What should we get? Pizza or burgers?

Penny: Let’s flip a coin.

Narrator: Great idea. I’m glad I picked you up, penny.

Penny: Hey, thanks.

Billy: I just want bread.

Narrator: A giant shout out to Samuel in Los Angeles who loves learning a little bit about everything. Hey, just like me, you go, Samuel. The more you listen to who’s smarter, the more you’ll feel yourself getting smarter. A supersized, shout out to Matthew Duke and Mr. T. and his third-grade class in San Diego, California. Thank you all so much for laughing, learning and listening to Who Smarted. This episode Money was written by Dave Bowdry and voiced by Karen O’Connor, Joe Tex and Jerry Colbert. Technical Direction and sound design by Josh Moneybags Han, who Smarted is recorded and mixed at the Relic Room Studios. Our associate producer is Max Nickel Kaki. The theme song is by Brian Silverdo Suarez, with lyrics written and performed by Adam T. Davis, who Smarted was created and produced by Adam Tex Davis and Jerry Colburn. This has been an atomic entertainment production.

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