Tokens used as money in a country. In addition to the metal coins and paper bank notes, modern currency also includes checks drawn on bank accounts, money orders, travelers checks, and will soon include electronic money or digital cash.

Types of Currency

What gives currency its value? Depending on the type of money, there are many different ways that value is assigned and handled. These are the types of currency.

Fiat Currency

Fiat currency is, at its core, money that is worth what the government and free market determine it is worth. It gets its value through fiat. Every developed nation uses fiat currency, because the value can be controlled through monetary policies. Some examples of fiat currency include the American dollar, British pound, and Euro.

Asset Backed Currency

Sometimes, assets like gold and silver are used to guarantee the value of currency. Often, asset backed currencies are made out of a precious metal, but this isn't always the case. Sometimes an asset backed currency can be exchanged for a given quantity of the asset, like the American dollar was exchangeable for gold prior to the 1930's.

Commodity Backed Currency

Commodity backed currencies are largely a relic of history. Commodities like tobacco were used to guarantee the value of currency. Although they aren't in use anymore, commodity backed currencies played a large role in the early days of capitalism. Their weakness is that there was often a shortage of a particular commodity due to yearly fluctuations, and that could wipe out or drastically increase the amount of wealth in any given financial system.

Digital Currency

The final, and most modern, type of currency is digital currency. Digital currencies get their value through scarcity imposed on them by the need to solve difficult equations. For example, Bitcoins need to be 'mined' by computers that solve mathematical problems. Digital currencies tend to be anonymous by design, and can only be spent by using computers to handle the transaction.

Use currency in a sentence

  • Ken tried to make some extra money in the foreign exchange markets, but he lost lhis investment because he didn't know anything about currency.

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  • If you are planning a trip overseas, determine ahead of time if you will need to convert your money to the other country's currency.

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  • After arriving in the foreign country, the tourist visited a bank to exchange his money because he couldn't buy, see or do anything without the local currency.

    4 people found this helpful
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Notable Quotes

  • How a Weak US Dollar Can be Good
    "When the U.S. dollar is weak, this pads profits for U.S.-based companies with big operations overseas, such as Coca-Cola or McDonald's. A Big Mac in France always is charged in euros, so revenue doesn't change based on currency fluctuations. But when McDonald's reports earnings in dollars, a euro translates into more, providing a boost to overall revenue and profits. For non-U.S. companies with operations in the States, the earnings impact is reversed. Say Sony sells a $1,000 Trinitron TV in the U.S. When the company converts the transaction from dollars into yen, it comes to about ?105,000. That's less than it would've been two years ago. Back then, the same $1,000 TV amounted to sold for roughly ?125,000. (from November 2004)"
    - Wall Street Journal
  • How a Weak US Dollar Can be Good
    "When the U.S. dollar is weak, this makes international companies' goods suddenly seem more expensive to Americans, who account for more than 30% of global consumption. If U.S. buyers snap up fewer imports, those overseas countries' economies end up taking the hit. (quoted from November 2004)"
    - Wall Street Journal

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