Stone Money and Its Relation to
Located in the Pacific Ocean and in Micronesia, is the Island of Yap. They established a different type of currency than what a person is accustomed to. With no metal on the island, the natives searched for a way to create some sort of currency to aid themselves in transactions. From this, they came up with the idea of ‘stone money’. Stone money is the currency the people of the Island Yap created because they had no previous currency. They took large chunks of limestone and created wheels out of it. The larger the wheel, the more valuable it was. It is not like United states currency being that there is no monetary number that proves you are wealthier than the next person. On the Island of Yap, people are presumed as wealthy because of wheels of limestone that are judged by their size. The more wheels that are owned and the larger they are, the more wealthy that family is. Wealth is not a numerical value on this island; instead, if one decides the size of the wheel is worth the thing being sold then the wheel pays for it. Although it is not physically the same as monetary currency, it is the same idea: trade one thing for another thing.
Goldstein and Kestenbaum’s article “The Island of Stone Money” makes a person think about what money truly is and what even makes it ‘money.’ Because some of the wheels that were created were so large and unable to be moved, their “concrete form of money quickly made the jump to being something very abstract.” In other words, the stone could be traded between people, but it would not move from its spot in the village. A person passing it would just know who it belonged to even though there was no physical name attached to it. It goes even further in the abstract sense that the stone did not even have to be on the island to be considered as money.. Just the very idea that it belonged to someone was enough, and it did not physically have to be in one’s possession to prove it. This is quite exactly the same as electronic money because even when paying a bill or purchasing something, no physical money is removed from your possession because it is just a number on the screen.
In a similar way, in Bruce Bower’s “How an Ancient Stone Money System Works like Cryptocurrency” it describes the stone wheels in an abstract way. Cryptocurrency is a digital asset that allows people to exchange funds all online. This means that no physical money was traded for a transaction. This idea could also be applied to the Island of Yap’s currency because when the wheels were too large, they were not moved. Instead; their ownership just changed like when people transfer money online. “No matter who acquired [the currency], it stayed in its original location” relates to today’s society because money can be transferred from account to account, but the physical currency resides in the bank and stays there. Therefore, the Yap’s form of currency is not so different from ours at all because both forms embody the same exact thing: even when traded from person to person, its origin stays in the same place.
The stone money was created by taking something everyone saw as pretty and turning it into currency. This is just the same in the fact that everyone saw metal to be shiny and pretty, so they figured it could be something that they could barter with. Of course everyone will want to be the person with the most pretty items, so it made sense to them. The stone money is different than monetary currency though because the worthiness of the wheel depends on who you give it to and for what. In Robert Poole’s “The Tiny Island with Human-Sized Money” he explains the origin of this money and its value to the people of Yap. He also explains that this currency does not need to be created anymore because there are already so many wheels around the island. However, to keep tradition in tact “new pieces are occasionally made … to ensure the skills of the past are not forgotten.” On top of this, there are so many stones on the island, and they are not stolen because of the fact that most of them are extremely large. Even with no name tag on them, every person in the village knows who they belong to. This is a way that this type of currency is better than the United State’s because the dollars and coins are easily accessible and can easily be stolen by anyone. With the wheels, it is nearly impossible to move them without being detected. They may even break in the process of trying to move them, so many people strayed away from this idea.
In conclusion, the currency used on the Island of Yap is not that different than the money we use in the United States to buy and trade things. Both types of currency began as physically forms in which they would be in a person’s possession. It was seen that whoever had the most of the currency was the wealthiest. In today’s society, everyone’s money stays in the bank, and transactions are performed online with no physical money in hand. The same goes for the island because the wheels got to be too big to move. With this, the ownership would be traded, but the wheel would remain in the same spot just as the money remains in the bank. Therefore, their idea of money and our idea of money is relatively the same, just with different objects.
Bower, Bruce. “How an Ancient Stone Money System Works Like Cryptocurrency.” Sciencenews.org. 28 July 2018.
Goldstein, Jacob, David, Kestenbaum. “The Island of Stone Money” npr.org. 10 December 2010.
Poole, Robert. “The Tiny Island with Human-Sized Money” bbc.com. 3 May 2018.