Money

We all take for granted that we use money to buy things in shops or pay for bus journeys, but at one time money did not exist.

Before money existed, people used to barter - so if you had lots of apples but no eggs, you would have to find somebody with eggs who wanted apples, and swap some of your apples for some of their eggs. For the way we live in Scotland today, this would not be a quick or easy way to do all your shopping! How many apples would you need to swap for a computer game? The invention of money allowed people to exchange tokens of an agreed value for the things they needed.

Shells, rings, stones and cattle were all used as money in different parts of the world before people started making coins. The first coins were made about 2,700 years ago. In the past some coins were made from precious metals such as gold and silver. An example is the British Gold Sovereign. It was worth one pound. The coins we use today are made from metal that is almost worthless.

Coins made in Scotland were all hammered out by hand, without the use of any machinery, until the reign of King Charles II. After that time machinery to make coins was invented and they started to look more like the ones that we use today. At the beginning of the 18th century, shortly after the Union of Scotland with England, Scotland stopped making its own coins. Scotland and England have used the same coins since then.

The first paper banknotes were made thousands of years after the first coins. Early banknotes looked quite plain compared to the ones we use today, but they were easy for criminals to copy. Printing technology soon developed that allowed more complicated banknote designs to be made that were more difficult to forge. Today, Scottish banknotes are often decorated with pictures of people who have been important in our history.

Banknote Coin

Activities

  1. Modern Scottish banknotes often commemorate the achievements of people who lived in the past, such as writers, scientists or inventors. Try to think of some Scottish people who are well known today who might appear on banknotes in the future. Design a note that commemorates what they have done.
  2. Look at the money timeline to see how coins have changed over time. What things do you think have affected how they look?
  3. Coins that are worth the same do not always look exactly the same. Look closely at some pennies. What can you see is the same on them and what is different? What kind of information is found on the coins?