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Barter is the economic operation by which each participant gives up the property of a property which he generally possesses in surplus and receives in exchange a good which he can not produce but which he needs. It appeared 11 000 years earlier, at the beginning of the Neolithic. The men were actually starting to gather in tribes: some began to make tools and weapons, others to cultivate and raise animals. We are witnessing a division of labor. Thus, they began to exchange goods. As settlement progressed, barter became widespread.

According to Adam Smith (1723-1790 ) , it was the development within the society of the division of labor during the Neolithic period, and the intensification of barter operations that led to the rise of money. In fact, for the exchange to take place, there must be a double coincidence of needs, but the offer does not always meet the demand. We must find a way to facilitate exchanges to avoid a stagnation of progress. Fact, barter-based companies are stationary companies, that is to say, they never develop, men can not invest without good able to preserve the value. This is why men decided to involve intermediate goods in their transactions. Gradually, various trading units made their appearance: precious metals, shells, cattle, salt (that’s where the word “salary” comes from), stuffs, e tc . We are talking about commodity money.

This commodity currency will not be useful for consumption but will serve as a means of exchange to obtain a good or a service. When it is accepted by all as a payment instrument, it is called money. Money creates a social bond, because all individuals accept it as payment, which brings them together. It also facilitates trade by eliminating the double coincidence of needs , and is not perishable , which allows to postpone consumption over time.

It was not until the 7th century BC that the first metal pieces appeared, in a Greek kingdom of Asia Minor, Lydia. Thus, the inventor of money (in the sense of metallic money ) is King Gyges, who made pieces of electrum (alloy of gold and silver) of the same form, with an invariable weight and a mark. These coins facilitated trade because of their small size. The Lydian kings made many monetary innovations, such as the establishment by Croesus (596 BC-547 BC) of a bimetallist system, thanks to the progress of metallurgy now able to separate gold from silver. That same king became thus the first richest man in the world. When the Persians conquered Asia Minor in the sixth century BC, they adopted this monetary system. We have kept memories of the early days of metallic money in our vocabulary: thus, the expression “touch the jackpot” refers to the Lydian river Pactole, from which the electrum was extracted.

Lydian currency

Coin the ydienne the time of Croesus minted with a lion head and bull (sixth century BC), b National IBRARY of Paris.

Metal currency is still commonly used today, even if it is limited to small purchases. His appearance , late enough, was a crucial step e in the economic history of the world . It has become more and more fiduciary ( we trust this currency, the value of which does not lie in the material that composes it ) over time.

The passage from barter to money was therefore slow and did not mean the total disappearance of barter. Thus, even after the onset of the so-called coinage, barter was e ncore used eg by European explorers, the triangular trade merchants, or in some areas remote from the world . Barter returns more fre quently in practice : for example, to counter the increasing commodification of our society, barter systems are in place. However, it keeps a minimal place in trade.