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Thanks to modern minting technology, most places have familiar currencies such as printed bills, coins, or even digitally stored currency such as credit cards. However, what happens when something goes wrong or that technology never developed?

Weird currency is when currency takes a form other than digital or minted currency. This item has a recognized social value and is exchanged for goods or services, much like regular currency is, it just comes in an unusual form.

This is not a barter system. In a barter system people trade for items for personal use. They sell for weird money and use that to buy what they use. Everyone is still willing to sell what they have for money, in barter there is no one good everyone will trade for.

Can be an inversion of Worthless Yellow Rocks; that is when something that is usually valuable is considered trash by another culture/race/species, whereas this is when trash is held as holding value in the form of currency.

Supertrope to Practical Currency and Energy Economy. Not to be confused with Funny Money.

Examples of Weird Currency include:


Comic Books

  • In the Carl Barks story "Tralla La", Scrooge McDuck and his nephews travel to a Utopia that operates on the barter system. But when Scrooge accidentally introduces bottle caps into the economy, the people fixate upon the novelty and start using it as currency, to the point of neglecting productive work. It Gets Worse when Scrooge tries to fix the problem by bringing in a billion bottle caps so that there are enough to go around.
  • The eponymous race in Orc Stain uses petrified slices of orc gronch as money.
  • Grey Area: This Island Earth has aliens using a variety of items as currency. The Tenekvode of Gace use the eggs of small creature known as the colud as money. Unfortunately once these eggs hatch the have a tendency to breed and kill anything in sight. Hoblizzz use the ears of K'kart as coins. Bowat use their own digits which are able to e-attached once they are paid back. Veeeeert use tiny measures of antimatter.

Film

  • In the Elvis Presley film Jailhouse Rock his prison mentor is the richest man in prison, having hundreds of cartons of cigarettes in his cell.

Literature

  • In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, a particularly stupid people tries to set up an economy with leaves as currency. It doesn't go well.
    • Other Hitch Hikers Guide to The Galaxy chapters have poems and elderly relatives as currency.
    • Another Hitchhiker's example is the Flavian pobble bead, which is apparently one of the three major Galactic currencies, despite only being exchangeable for other Flavian pobble beads.
    • Another currency is made up of extremely large triangles. Nine of them will get you a more reasonably-sized dollar equivalent, but no one has been able to keep hold of nine of them at once and the banks don't deal in petty change.
  • The Discworld's Ankh-Morpork went through a brief period of using stamps as currency between the transition from gold-plated coins to paper money.

Live Action Television

  • In the TV series Love And War waitress Nadine is an aging socialite whose husband is in prison from the Savings & Loan scandal of the early Nineties. At one point she mentions she's going to visit him and bring 2 cartons of cigarettes in order to buy him his way out of his latest Noodle Incident.
  • Demons in Buffy the Vampire Slayer use kittens as currency.
  • In The Golden Girls, Sophia tells a story about her first job in Sicily. The story came up because her first paycheck, a brightly painted rock, was found under Dorothy's bed.
    • Another episode lampshaded this trope. When the girls were dieting, they find a box of cookies on the kitchen shelf. Blanche starts to open them, and Rose asks her if she's going to eat them. Dorothy then says, "No, Rose, we're going to go to some dumb country and try to use them as money."

Newspaper Comics

  • They use clams in BC (even though within the strip they're Talking Animals, which should cause some Carnivore Confusion, but usually doesn't).
  • Parodied in Calvin and Hobbes, when Calvin tells space aliens he'll give them the Earth for 50 different kinds of alien tree leaves (he put off a school assignment, and wanted the alien tree leaves so that he could finish it in time) and the aliens thought it meant "these primitive fools" (Earthlings) "use leaves as currency."

Radio

  • The Goon Show often uses weird substitutes for money, such as 3,000 pounds in bent NAAFI spoons, gramophone records of clinking coins, photographs of five-pound notes, or even piles of bricks (to be paid into any building society[1]). Rule of Funny, obviously.

Tabletop Games

  • In Deadlands, Hell on Earth also uses bullets as the most commonly accepted currency.
  • The Warhammer 40000 orks use their teeth as currency.

Video Games

  • In Kingdom of Loathing, the currency is meat, which justifies its use of Money Spider.
  • Fallout uses bottle caps. They started out as literal caps off of bottles, but eventually evolved into normal money.
    • Bottlecap use is backed by the Water Merchants, the controllers of the most valuable commodity in the game world.
  • Many Virtual Pet sites with a currency bought for real-life money have one of these.
  • Parasite Eve has trading cards used to buy upgrades.
  • Brutal Legend has Fire Tributes, which are signs of the approval of the Gods of Metal and appear as 2D hands holding lighters whenever you do something awesome like jumping over a canyon in your hot rod or beating a mission.
  • Metro 2033 uses pristine pre-war bullets (as opposed to the homemade and less effective ones normally used for combat) as currency.
  • Transformice uses cheese as currency.
  • Devil May Cry uses crystallized demon blood.
  • The prehistoric area of Secret of Evermore uses claws.
  • Echo Bazaar uses echoes. This may or may not be a metaphor.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei, demons use Macca, which is a double subversion - they look like coins, but they're actually some form of candied Pure Energy the demons can eat.
  • As anyone will tell you, the economy of Team Fortress 2 is basically made of hats.
  • Someone on the EA team had the crazy idea to use Bertie Bott's Every-Flavored Beans as money in the Harry Potter video games. For some reason, these were hidden all over Hogwarts and you could trade them with Fred and George for Wizard Cards and other stuff.

Western Animation

Real Life

  • Parts of Africa, Australia, Asia and North America used cowrie shells as currency.
  • Rai stones from Yap in Micronesia. Individual carved stones may be over two meters across.
  • Tea bricks were used as currency in some parts of ancient China.
  • Salt was used as currency in Sahel.
    • And in the Roman Empire. This is where we get the term salary.
  • As in BC and the Flintstones, many extremely early civilizations used seashells as currency. This is probably the most historically accurate part of both series.
  • Some extremely early records of civilization have divulged that some of the earliest Babylonian-area currency were clay figures of livestock, representing the values of their respective models.
  • Colonial Virginians often paid their debts in tobacco leaves.
  • The ancient Aztecs used cocoa beans and lengths of woven cloth, alongside more familiar (to modern readers) hammered copper pieces. People even made counterfeit cocoa beans out of clay

Notes

  1. UK equivalent of Savings & Loan banks. They all mutated into real banks sometime in the 80s or 90s.
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