Small Change

Small change

(Source: Flickr)

John Chown in A History of Money:

The Continental aspect of the problem is discussed by Cipolla:

While the workers were paid with small coins the big merchants and entrepreneurs selling their products usually wanted to be paid with gold coins.  In such a condition, given the usual lag of nominal wages behind the deterioration of the petty coins, and the consequent rise of gold coins and commodity prices, any debasement of the petty coins provoking the depreciation of petty black coins in terms of the gold ones and in terms of commodities resulted, in the short run at least, in (1) a decrease of real wages and (2) an inflation of the profits of the entrepreneurs even if the selling prices of the products on the market did not increase in terms of the big gold coins.  It was natural therefore that the two classes of entrepreneurs and workers strongly opposed each other on the monetary question, the first backing a policy of debasement of the petty coins the second a policy of stabilization.

(Cipolla 1967: 34-5)


John F. Chown, A History of Money: From AD 800 (London: Routledge, 1996).

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