Currency

Here's What A 43-Pound Coin Looks Like

On a recent podcast, we explored gold's central role in the history of money. But, even before the rise of paper bills, gold wasn't the only option.

Sweden, for example, used a copper standard for a while in the 1600s and 1700s. That didn't work out so well.

Because copper was so abundant — and because the value of coins was based largely on the value of the metal they were made of — Sweden's 10-daler coin was actually a ginormous 43-pound slab of copper, more than two feet long by one foot wide.

Listener Sarah Y. sent us a link to this picture of the daler, from the blog money-funnies. We superimposed a dollar bill on top of it, to give a sense of scale:

The Swedish daler at the Coin Cabinet exhibit at The Historical Museum in Lund, Sweden.

The Swedish daler at the Coin Cabinet exhibit at The Historical Museum in Lund, Sweden. via money-funnies.com hide caption

itoggle caption via money-funnies.com

How would something like this even work as money? Here's one contemporary description, as quoted in An Economic History of Sweden:

...many carry their money around on their backs, others on their heads, and larger sums are pulled on a horsecart. Four ... would be a terrible punishment for me if I had to carry them a hundred steps; may none here become a thief. I shall take one of these dalers back to you unless it is too heavy for me; I am now hiding it under my bed...

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.