With a little thought, one can deduce that the history of the money clip is clearly aligned with the history of money. Therefore, prior to paper currency, there were no money clips. History of Paper Money Paper money was originally used for two different purposes
Drafts: If you gave someone something to hold, they would give you a paper receipt until which time you came back, showed the receipt and got your merchandise, and
Bills: If someone gave you a promise to give you something later they would right you a note or a bill which was worth what they wrote on the note.
Ancient Iraq – Mesopotamia (323 – 126 BC) & Ptolemaic Egypt (305BC – 30BC); Drafts were used so that they could store grain. The “drachma” was a weight of grain.
Ancient Japan - Yayoi period (500 BC to 300AD); with the emergence of wet rice farming came the need to store the rice. When rice was stored, the person was given a receipt or a draft. The unit of measurement in Japan was the Koku – weight of rice that would feed one person for one year.
Bills or Notes and the use of money as we know it, as a currency, was developed by China (the year 960ac) due to a shortage of copper. Since there was no metal to make the coins, they used paper as their currency -- Jiaozi. Interestingly enough prior to the shortage people would wear their money on necklaces. The wealthier you were, the heavier the chain. This became physically uncomfortable and problematic, so the Chinese developed a system where they could leave their coins with a person of trust in return for a paper note. They could get their money back by showing the note at a later time. In 1455, the Ming Dynasty discontinued the use of paper money. It is thought that a similar system was used in India where the currency was hundi.
The next emergency of paper money was in Europe in the Netherlands in during the Spanish siege of 1574, residents made paper currency out of covers and paper from hymnals and church missals.
As for the United States, the first notes were issued in the early 1690s, by the Massachusetts Bay Colony. By the early 1700 each of the 13 colonies had their own banknotes – colonial scrip. Then in 1775, in order to fund the revolutionary war, the continental congress issued continental currency. Though the currency proved useless because it wasn’t tied to the price of gold or silver, it was the first universal currency use in the United States. Later in 1816, England introduced currency that was assigned value with the introduction of the gold standard. The US adopted the standard in 1900. In 1971, President Nixon abandoned the gold standard and we’ve been living in a world of “floating currency” ever since.
History of the Money Clip
The money clip about with the use of paper currency. Once paper currency was used, there became the need to secure it. There were many ways and devices to secure coins, and likely at first these were used for paper money as well; chests, bags, chains.
However, over time, it is thought that the money clip was also used as a fastener. This being the case, it is not a stretch to imagine kings, pharaohs and emperors of past were amongst the first users of the fastener.
Since paper money was used in Egypt during the Ptolemaic period it’s likely that Alexander the Great and Cleopatra’s Marc Antony were among the first money clip carriers. These money clips would have been made of gold and precious metals and adorned with innate jewels - the earliest silver and gold money clips.
Next in China the Emperors of the Song and Yuan Dynasties would have needed a way to fasten their belongings. So, the legendary Kublai Khan was likely a money clip man. He introduced the currency Chao to his region.
Moving to Europe, in the Netherlands war to defeat the Spanish, the leader of the rebellion William the Silent, Prince of Orange would have used the currency to feed his people. His money clip would have been made of leather. We would say he would be amongst the first holders of the leather money clip.
In the United States, money clips have been a staple under the men’s accessory category since the early 1900’s. Always there, yet like with any clothing items, riding the current fashion trends.
Today there many styles and types of money clips including different metals and materials that they are made from. Money clips are given as both corporate and personal gifts because they can easily be engraved and made as personal or impersonal as needed. They can also be an extension of one’s personality or used to show affection or affiliation with an affinity group such as sports teams or military units. Below is a photo of some of early money clips dating as far back as the 1800’s.
If you are a money clip aficionado and know more about the history or have your own stories to share. We’d love to hear from you. Email us at Bill@crazy4store.com