Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary
Currency is a form of money which serves as the primary means of exchange in a society, community, or country.
A currency is a unit of exchange, facilitating the transfer of goods and/or services. It is one form of money, where money is anything that serves as a medium of exchange, a store of value, and a standard of value. Currencies are the dominant medium of exchange. Coins and paper money are both forms of currency.
In most cases, each private central bank has monopoly control over the supply and production of its own currency. To facilitate trade between these currency zones, there are exchange rates, which are the prices at which currencies (and the goods and services of individual currency zones) can be exchanged against each other. Currencies can be classified as either floating currencies or fixed currencies based on their exchange rate regime.
In cases where a country does have control of its own currency, that control is exercised either by a central bank or by a Ministry of Finance. In either case, the institution that has control of monetary policy is referred to as the monetary authority. Monetary authorities have varying degrees of autonomy from the governments that create them. In the United States, the Federal Reserve System operates without direct oversight by the legislative or executive branches. It is important to note that a monetary authority is created and supported by its sponsoring government, so independence can be reduced or revoked by the legislative or executive authority that creates it. However, in practical terms, the revocation of authority is not likely. In almost all Western countries, the monetary authority is largely independent from the government.
Several countries can use the same name for their own distinct currencies (e.g., dollar in Canada and the United States). By contrast, several countries can also use the same currency (e.g., the euro), or one country can declare the currency of another country to be legal tender. For example, Panama and El Salvador have declared U.S. currency to be legal tender, and from 1791–1857, Spanish silver coins were legal tender in the United States. At various times countries have either re-stamped foreign coins, or used currency board issuing one note of currency for each note of a foreign government held, as Ecuador currently does.
The origin of currency is the creation of a circulating medium of exchange based on a unit of account which quickly becomes a store of value. Currency evolved from two basic innovations: the use of counters to assure that shipments arrived with the same goods that were shipped, and later with the use of silver ingots to represent stored value in the form of grain. Both of these developments had occurred by 2000 BC. Originally money was a form of receipting grain stored in temple granaries in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Currently, the International Organization for Standardization has introduced a three-letter system of codes (ISO 4217) to define currency (as opposed to simple names or currency signs), in order to remove the confusion that there are dozens of currencies called the dollar and many called the franc. Even the List of countries using pound currency|pound is used in nearly a dozen different countries, all, of course, with wildly differing values. In general, the three-letter code uses the ISO 3166-1 country code for the first two letters and the first letter of the name of the currency (D for dollar, for instance) as the third letter. United States currency, for instance, is globally referred to as USD.
The International Monetary Fund uses a variant system when referring to national currencies.
In economics, a local currency is a currency not backed by a national government, and intended to trade only in a small area. Advocates such as Jane Jacobs argue that this enables an economically depressed region to pull itself up, by giving the people living there a medium of exchange that they can use to exchange services and locally-produced goods (In a broader sense, this is the original purpose of all money.) Opponents of this concept argue that local currency creates a barrier which can interfere with economies of scale and comparative advantage, and that in some cases they can serve as a means of tax evasion.
Local currencies can also come into being when there is economic turmoil involving the national currency. An example of this is the Argentinian economic crisis of 2002 in which IOUs issued by local governments quickly took on some of the characteristics of local currencies.
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This glossary post was last updated: 1st May, 2020 | 4 Views.