NPR logo Here's What A 43-Pound Coin Looks Like


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. via hide caption

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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...