While I certainly like the idea of tally sticks, to claim that they were the main way of engaging in hand-to-hand trade during medieval times doesn't seem likely. Long and awkwardly shaped, tally stick are not nearly as convenient as coins. It's hard to see why anyone would prefer them. Just like the sleek US$1 bill has driven the bulky $1 coin out of circulation, one would expect coins to push bulky tally sticks out of general usage.Medieval tally sticks, an early example of public/private key technology https://t.co/DG1p5Sn399 pic.twitter.com/cOAz2PoiRZ— JP Koning (@jp_koning) November 8, 2016
Mitchell-Innes's second, and more radical, line of defence is to claim that coins themselves are a form of credit. "A government coin is a "promise to pay," just like a private bill or note," he says. Elsewhere he writes: "A coin is an instrument of credit or token of indebtedness identical in its nature with a tally or with any other form of money, by whomsoever issued."Alfred Mitchell-Innes once claimed that tally sticks—not coins—were the dominant medieval instrument of commerce: https://t.co/o4qimrRdGT— JP Koning (@jp_koning) October 30, 2018
Seems unlikely, no? Why lug a bundle of heavy 8-inch long sticks in your pocket for making payments when coins took up much less space? pic.twitter.com/aIRW9Eghr3
"This account fails to explain, however, why governments chose bits of gold or silver as the material for these tokens, rather than something cheaper, say bits of iron or copper or paper impressed with sovereign emblems. In the market-evolutionary account, preciousness is advantageous in a medium of exchange by lowering the costs of transporting any given value. In a Cartalist pay-token account, preciousness is disadvantageous — it raises the costs of the fiscal operation — and therefore baffling. Issuing tokens made of something cheaper would accomplish the same end at lower cost to the sovereign."Mitchell-Innes doesn't make much of an effort to explain why gold might have been selected as a medium for inscribing IOUs. But on the discussion board, Antti has a provocative theory. Credit is often collateralized, an asset being pledged by a borrower to a lender in order to reduce the risk of the loan. If a gold coin is a form of credit, then maybe the gold embodied in the coin is serving as collateral.
Redenominated coins are IOUs printed on metal.— JP Koning (@jp_koning) October 29, 2018
"The practice of elevating the denomination of circulating cents seems to have been an early Civil War era phenomenon, given the shortage of then circulating coins." Source: https://t.co/OIMMt2CBVj pic.twitter.com/UiXSBKpk7u
|Chopped 1880 U.S. trade dollar (source)|