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Making MoneyCoin, Currency, and the Coming of Capitalism$
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Christine Desan

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198709572

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198709572.001.0001

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From metal to money

From metal to money

Producing the “just penny”

(p.70) 2 From metal to money
Making Money

Christine Desan

Oxford University Press

Although coin seems to be a simple medium, the experience of the English suggests that making and maintaining coin depended on an elaborate public process. Under the “free minting” system established in England during the 12th century to produce commodity money at the demand of individuals, the Crown monopolized the power to issue coin and to decree its content and count. The government also used coin and demanded it in return. Essential to that system was the legal enforcement of exchange in money. The English common law recognized only the king’s coin as money. Moreover, the common law required that coin be taken at its nominal or face value: the writ of debt identified the count of money, not the weight of silver, as the medium that settled obligations. The system produced a peculiar currency: the English penny held a very high purchasing power and circulated quickly.

Keywords:   coin, commodity money, free minting, unit of account, common law, nominalism, face value, metallism, writ, debt, count, penny, purchasing power

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