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Money Museum- Barter in Colonial America
Coins were scarce during the early
colonial period, and much of the meager supply available went
to pay for imported goods. Short of cash to spend at home, the
settlers used tobacco, rice, corn, and numerous other commodities
to buy goods and services and pay debts.
Pelts were used to pay court fines
and debts to buy goods. Sought after by fashionable Europeans,
the skins became important export items.
Circulated as money at a farthing
(1/4 penny) a piece.
Even such important objects as nails
occasionally served as substitutes for scarce coins.
Corn and tobacco were the most important
of the farm products that came into use as money substitutes.
Both were declared legal tender and could be used to pay taxes
and other debts.
Indians traded with strings and
belts of polished beads known as wampum. Colonies soon adopted
wampum as a commodity currency.