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I am working on a world based on our Earth that has gone through an apocalypse. Almost all buildings would be in absolute ruin so banks would be gone. I feel like it would make sense that a new currency would happen naturally. Any ideas what would make most sense for said currency?

When the story I am focused on takes place there is no organized government in place at any level.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by L.Dutch, Azuaron, Green, sphennings, John Aug 3 '17 at 23:13

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ I would like to add that there will no longer be an established government at the start of the story. It is possible one will be created again. $\endgroup$ – D. Gramm Aug 3 '17 at 15:19
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    $\begingroup$ Gramm it is best to edit any changes/additions into the question itself rather than in the comments. Comments can be deleted and are not intended to be permanent. $\endgroup$ – James Aug 3 '17 at 15:27
  • $\begingroup$ There are several questions on the site asking about post-apocalypse currency. I couldn't find one that exactly matches your question, but some come close. If you're interested, do a search for 'apocalypse currency is:q'. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Aug 3 '17 at 15:37
  • $\begingroup$ The question in the title and the question in the body don't match. In the body, it seems the OP has already decided that yes, a new currency will emerge in their world, and now they're asking for suggestions on what that currency should be, which I believe means this question is "Story-Based". The currency can be whatever you want. Fallout, for example, opted for Bottle Caps. $\endgroup$ – DisturbedNeo Aug 3 '17 at 16:22
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Yes. And No.

So the thing is, modern currency only has value because we believe it has value and that in large part is because it is backed by national governments and more specifically their stored wealth.

In your scenario it would depend on how long after your apocalypse you are talking. Over time we would get back to where we are today with variation based on how things evolve.

In a future post apocalyptic setting (depending on how you define the socio-political climate) you are not going to have big governments with a few possible exceptions based on the apocalyptic event.

So modern currencies and particular international standards/exchange rates are not going to exist.

It is possible that some other form of currency that has intrinsic value (perhaps iron coins, or there's always gold and other precious metals) could come into use but this would likely take time to develop.

The progression of currency development looks something like this.

  • Barter System. You have chickens, I have Vegetables. We trade. No currency involved. Random valuable trinkets say a necklace or jewel or what have you could also be used in trade.

  • Standard coinage. A government, in order to collect taxes on trade and make wealth easier to store creates standard currencies. These currencies will have value of their own, not symbolic value

  • Paper Money. What we have today...well honestly we are starting to move beyond it in many ways but its still a thing. This is a note with less value than the materials it is made out of. Its value is perceived not intrinsic. Again this is based of government backing and such.

  • Post Paper. We are getting there, or rather we are here and at paper money at the same time...hell we still barter on occasion. Anyway this is digital currency, which is not to say things like bitcoin only, standard currencies are obviously digitized too.

What is beyond that is anyone's guess.

Key Points:

  • Stability: For currency to evolve beyond bartering you need more and more stability and more and more layers of organization to handle it...I personally like it, I don't want to have to cart around things that can poop to pay for other things that poop.

  • Ease of use: The more you progress the easier it is to use. While gold coins are infinitely more efficient than say a wagon full of wheat, imagine having to pay for a mansion by driving a wagon load of gold up to the front door...the further we progress the easier it is to transport

  • Security: This is weird but the idea is to make things more and more secure/harder to counterfeit as you move forward...we are learning that digital is easier but...it has it's problems too.

The wiki page on currency is pretty well fleshed out too

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    $\begingroup$ In your list you forgot a crucial step: gold as barter "equiparator", gold merchants and credit letters. Gold was used to even out barters since Aegean trading communities. "Letters of Credit" issued by bold dealers were invented in Italy to "bypass" road thievery and evolved quite fast in full fledged bank institutes. This many centuries before paper money and current "floating" currency. Do you want to update your answer or should I build one on yours? $\endgroup$ – ZioByte Aug 3 '17 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ Funnily enough, currency (with the current exception of crypto-currency), IS actually backed by a commodity. In the 70s, Nixon took the US off the "gold standard" because Europe decided to start making the US ship actually gold in exchange for notes, but around the same time something else happened: OPEC decided to perform all oil trades in USD. And, though there isn't a formal agreement on this, other currencies are, on the global market, specified in terms of USD. $\endgroup$ – Azuaron Aug 3 '17 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Azuaron: Except that currencies float with respect to each other, with no fixed point. The USD floats against the EUR as much as the EUR floats against the USD. And you are vastly exagerating the importance of (most) oil transactions being denominated in USD. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 3 '17 at 18:50
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I would say either the coins of the previous pre apocalyptic era or bullets. Bullets can last at least 70 to 100 years and are relatively lightweight, are likely universally needed for protection from banditry, hunting food, zombies, what have you. They can be made, but not easily so it is unlikely a flood of bullets would hit the market plus their use would just lower the supply anyway. They are also pretty light at about 8 grams each for a .357 and 7.5 grams for a 9 mm, a US quarter being 5.67 grams each.

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Paper notes would definitely be worthless since there would likely be no functioning or legitimate government to give them intrinsic value. Also, I doubt anyone would be willing to exchange vital supplies for some pieces of paper.

But it depends on what you have in mind for a new currency. Until the supply situation stabilizes, there would be no way to justify symbolic currency. After scarcity is less of a problem, I think people would shift towards something analogous to gold (cigars or sea shells are historical examples) that is difficult to obtain and therefore usable as proof-of-work. Once a government is established again, and they have decent regulation, control, and activity within the economy, they can start dictating currencies.

You could also have a ledger system where no actual currency is used, but a central record maintains how much everyone produces and how much everyone takes. This would work well on a small scale, but would be infeasible on a larger trade scale.

When a new de-facto currency does eventually exist, it would probably be something hard to obtain like a rare metal or an expensive manufactured good. Or maybe everyone would just barter until the government introduces a currency like gold coins.

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I imagine that immediately following an apocalyptic event the remaining people of earth would not use one unified form of currency, bartering would probably immediately kick in and people would trade sex, drugs(prescription and otherwise), cigarettes, and alcohol for anything they wanted. some people would cling to the currency they were familiar with before but depending on its availability, if it were used as a currency it would be inflated beyond recognition. after the initial shock of having the world end eventually subsided people would probably revert to precious metals as currency again and eventually it would evolve into some sort of arbitrary object signifying one unit or credit and a bit of normality would be put back in place. But that would probably require a form of government to basically back up the value of a credit and enforce some consistency in its production and use.

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The new currency would be the same as the old ones, Gold, and possibly Silver.

Paper currencies are faith based, they are worth what people believe they are worth - with the collapse of digital markets, the currencies attached to paper money would most likely instantly lose all of their value.

People believed for a few thousand years that silver and gold coins have value, so it seems extremely likely that they will maintain that belief, even when paper money loses its value.

After a few years, the coins will become standardized. I'd argue that unlike in the past, the coins of different communities would initially be easy to exchange because their size would likely be based on pre-apocalypse units of weight. Later on, different communities will probably start to dilute the coins' purity at which point exchange rates will become a mess.

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