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6 Questions About the History of Money and Banking Answered

The curation of this content is at the discretion of the author, and not necessarily reflective of the views of Encyclopaedia Britannica or its editorial staff. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, consult individual encyclopedia entries about the topics.

Earlier versions of these questions and answers first appeared in The Handy Personal Finance Answer Book by Paul A. Tucci (2012). 

  • When did the word money first appear?

    The English word money first appeared in the 14th century. It was derived from the Latin word moneta, a name given to the Roman goddess Juno, at or near whose temple the Romans first began minting coins around 300 BCE.

    (Read Milton Friedman's Britannica entry on money.)

  • When did the use of money first begin?

    As early as 5000 BCE, the Sumerians, in modern-day Iraq, began to produce silver ingots to be used as a standard measurement and currency. (They also invented the wheel and arithmetic.) The Egyptians began using gold as a form of currency around 4000 BCE.

  • When did the first banks come into existence?

    Around 3000 BCE, according to many scholars, some of the first banks may have been inside of temples, used for both religious ceremonies and the storage of agricultural products, such as wheat and other grains. Farmers would deposit their supply at the temple and were given a receipt for the amount of product that they deposited. It is thought that this receipt was of value, and it would most likely be the earliest form of money used in trade.

  • When did the first coins appear?

    The first coins, imprinted with a turtle in relief, appeared around 700 BCE, in Aegina Island, in modern-day Greece.

  • When was the earliest written evidence of the use of money?

    Laws mentioning the use of money as payment for restitution can be found in the Code of Ur-Nammu. It was written in Sumerian by Ur-Nammu, king of Ur, who ruled from 2112 to 2095 BCE. In law 22, it is written that “If a man knocks out a tooth of another man, he shall pay two shekels of silver.”

  • How old is the concept of saving?

    The concept of saving may go back as far as the Neolithic Period (around 10,000 BCE) when early humans began settling in villages and engaged in agricultural production and animal husbandry. The very fact that they were producing more food than each farm could consume means that they had to save and, later, trade the surplus.