Money depending on who you are with these days does illicit some really varied responses; contempt, envy, happiness, humour, fake, counterfeit etc.
3 things around money that sound derisive but have a historical truth surrounding them are:
- It is not worth the paper it is printed on
Historically money was an actual commodity like salt, silk, peppercorns, tea, cowrie shells etc. Then in later years it got its value from the commodity of which it was made; gold, silver, copper etc. Then came the printed money but, these days printed money or the paper it is printed on is without use or value as a physical commodity. Hence, it is not worth the paper it is printed on.
The value of money these days comes from it being declared by a government to be legal tender. Even though it is not worth the paper it is printed on, it would be illegal for you to refuse to accept the currency as a means of payment. And it is also illegal to print your own money without the legal sanction of your government.
- It can be laundered or whitewashed
The term ‘money laundering’ was coined because of the American mafia who, at one time discovered that a cash business was the obvious thing to do to channel cash proceeds of crime. Laundries were a suitable cash business and the term “money laundering” came about; so goes the rumour!
This may or may not be true that the mafia channelled the cash proceeds of crime through laundrettes to legitimize the cash but this term is here to stay and is now widely used to talk about the process of making illegally-gained proceeds appear legal.
This century, the term “money laundering” has broadened to include other forms of crime in the financial system such as in stock market indexes, credit card markets, currency platforms, terrorism financing and the evasion of international sanctions.
- It sells for a song
It was not until the Song dynasty that paper money evolved and was used by merchants to exchange heavy coinage for promissory notes from shops of wholesalers. This group of wealthy merchants and financiers came from Szechuan Province and it is in this province where printing money first started.
The Song dynasty paper notes quickly gained widespread acceptance and were widely circulated amongst the traders in a heavily monopolized salt industry but it was not until the mid-13th century that a standard and uniform government issue of paper money was made into an acceptable nationwide currency.