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10 Weird Things People Use as Money

10. Rai Stone

On the island of Yap in Micronesia, these enormous limestone discs are held dear. Limestone is not native to Yap - it had to be carried over from the neighboring island of Palau. At 12 feet in diameter and weighing as much as 8 tons, the price of carrying the stones to Yap was often paid in blood. Rai stones were therefore very valuable and used as ceremonial currency for enormous events such as weddings. The stones stay in place - ownership is transferred in an enormous public ceremony. 

9. Local Loot

Regional currencies aren't an everyday sight for most people, but they're more common than you might imagine. In Massachusetts, the Berkshires are home to Berkshares (which is a perfect name on so many levels.) Salt Spring in British Columbia has its own dollar, with art by local artists, and Sopros, Hungary has the Kekfrank. Local currencies usually trade at the same value as the national currency of the surrounding country, but they help encourage small business and local spending, and add some local flavor to day-to-day life.

8. Edible Wages

This may be the one that makes the most sense from an outside perspective. However people may feel about economics; most peoples' feelings towards food are pretty positive. The word "salary" has its origin in the salt allowance given to Roman soldiers, but plenty of edibles have been used as money around the world, from cacao beans in Mexico and Central America, mackerel in some American prisons, and bricks of tea in East Asia.

7. Bottle Caps

Many video gamers are familiar with bottle caps as currency from the Fallout games, but it turns out that bottle caps have actually been used as currency in Cameroon. Local brewers held a sweepstakes-like promotion that featured prizes on the bottom of bottle caps. One of the most common prizes? Free beer. Turns out the average price of a beer in Cameroon is about a dollar, the same as the average taxi ride, so naturally, beer caps became a de facto cab fare, and were also used to grease the palm of the occasional traffic officer.

6. Cryptocurrency

Bitcoin isn't weird in the "wacky" sense, but it's certainly turning some heads. The cryptocurrency has spawned a wealth of imitators, but a key asset is its decentralized nature  - you don't rely on a centralized company like PayPal to store your money for you. This allows greater privacy, which has some people ardently voicing support, and others very, very worried. Ultimately, the market will decide what place Bitcoin has in the economy. For now, it seems to be surviving, but only in a niche. 

5. Clean Urine

Anything that has worth to people can become currency - like cigarettes in World War II movies. Well, it turns out that there are a lot of drug tests in American penitentiaries, and it turns out that not every inhabitant of the penal system is prepared to pass those tests on their own merit. Clean urine, then, has become something of a commodity, and can be traded for goods and services like any other form of cold hard cash.

4. Trillion Dollar Bills

Hyperinflation leads to a lot of ridiculous situations, but it's not as funny as it sounds when you read the highlights on an Internet article. Weird stuff happens when your economy is spiraling out of control. People may find themselves using money as toilet paper because the TP is more expensive than the cash you'd spend on it.  It's not unheard of for people to go to market with a wheelbarrow full of cash to buy something as small as a loaf of bread, find out that the price has gone up, go back home for another wheelbarrow, and come back to find that the price is too high yet again. It's in this ridiculous situation that we get artifacts like the 100 Million Billion Pengo note from Hungary in 1946, or Zimbabwe's trillion-dollar note from this year. (Don't worry about Zimbabwe. They just switched over to the American dollar in June -at an exchange rate of 250 Trillion to 1.)

3. Nature's Own

Of course, none of this is to ignore the fact that our oldest currencies were taken from nature. In medieval Russia, squirrel pelts were often used as cash. In China, they used the shell of the cowry - a type of sea snail, as early as the 16th century BCE. The shell spread through large parts of Asia, and on into Africa, the Middle East, and Europe - a testament to China's economic strength throughout history. 

2. Deluxe Money

Money - now with added bits! Coins with stuff in them seem to be more popular than you'd expect. Mongolia briefly had a coin with JFK, of all people, on the tails side, which would be odd enough by itself if the coin didn't also recite the "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech at the touch of a button. The island of Palau issued a coin of the Virgin Mary that included holy water from the Grotto at Lourdes in a vial in the coin. Fiji issued a coin with bits of a meteor that fell in Germany, and the Ivory Coast once put out a coin with pieces of actual mammoth inside.

1. Crazy Coinage

There are other ways to punch up your coins than just cramming things into them, though. Benin has a coin with a raised, colored-in Marijuana leaf on the tail side. That's weird enough, but they also infused it with a synthetic oil that smells weed when you rub it, maybe making it the first scratch-and-sniff money in circulation.