Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Shell Game

February 24th, 2010 · 2 Comments

The Wired cover story this month is not our Ug99 opus, but rather a brilliant meditation on the future of money. A couple of years hence, you can forget about the ATM—just think “pay this man,” and neural implants will automatically wire dough from your bank account to your creditor. Or something like that.

In the Solomon Islands, however, the future of money is looking very much like the past, at least when it comes to settling local debts:

Mother of Shell Money Hilda Gelulu from Surabotaá in Langalanga constituency in Malaita province is proposing to establish a Shell Money factory in the country.

Mrs Gelulu who is been in the trade for over 30 years said the idea of establishing the factory is to maintain the culture of making money in the country.

She said Shell Money is very useful in times of settling disputes, paying of bride prize, compensation and buying property.

“Importantly Shell Money is our trade mark seen in our ten dollar notes,” she said.

At the moment she has four thousands bags of shell money to kick of the factory.

Plenty more on the economics of the practice here. Yes, alternate currencies naturally threaten the stability or legitimacy of a nation’s legal tender. But if the usage can be limited to certain locales that have a difficult time attracting paper currency, the upside is probably worth the risk.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Jordan

    The eternal question when you start a new currency: how easy is it to counterfeit? And in this case, how much environmental impact will you have given that monetary systems are almost always inflationary?

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Jordan: Well, at least in this case, the currency seems very hard to duplicate. Not only do you have to gather the shells, but then you have to convert them into a socially acceptable form (hence Ms. Gelulu’s need for a factory).

    I guess if you were at way with the Solomon Islands, you could undercut part of their economy by flooding the market with shell money. But it seems to me that most of the nation’s enemies are internal.

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