Friday, December 16, 2011

Funny Money Roundup 2

Another roundup of funny money, courtesy of IMTFI research assistant Taylor Nelms:

• I’m currently doing research in Quito, Ecuador, and after being mugged on a previous trip, I started putting a folded $20 or $10 bill in my shoe to have a bit of cash for a taxi if it happens again.

Now I know what to call it. Learn about the history of “mad money.” (h/t Eva)
• The webcomic kxcd shows us for what, exactly, money is useful, in amazingly detailed chart form. (Interesting that a figure entitled "Money: A chart of (almost) all of it, where it is, and what it can do" focuses entirely on money stored as wealth and money as medium of exchangethat is, interpreted in terms of its value in exchange for other things. The image also speaks to how to imagine scale shifts and, even while ostensibly picturing accurate ratios and intervals, the chart shows how money can skip across nominal and ordinal scalesso that a "the size of the derivatives market by year" in 2009 seems unimaginably, un-comparatively large.)

• Chinese citizens frustrated with high housing prices have created a new currency and unit of account, riffing on a tweet by Pan Shiyi, a wealthy Chinese real estate developer, suggesting that “the best way to commemorate [Steve] Jobs” would be to offer affordable (under “1000 Chinese Yuan”) iPhones and iPads. (h/t Scott Mainwaring)

• From the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Newsletter: Cash, it turns out, is still useful.

• And, similarly, a simply fantastic piece dredged up by a friend of IMTFI documenting the contents of famous Canadians’ wallets (available through ProQuest, subscription required; full citation: Rumack, L. (2001, Feb 03). Other people's wallets: Is it simply a place to keep credit cards, or does your wallet say something about you? [the wallets of some notable Canadians]. Saturday Night, 116(4), 32-32). (h/t Lana) A sample:

OCCUPATION: Author and teacher
CONTENTS: 2 Visa gold cards (one for family, one for personal spending); 3 health cards (her own and one for each of her daughters, ages 7 and 12); 2 bank cards (her own and that of her 7-year-old); $20.66; St. Michael's Hospital card; Bay card; Bell calling card; Indigo Circle member card; Indigo CD-club card; Harbourfront Moves dance card; ticket stub from Premiere Dance Theatre; ticket stub from The Vagina Monologues; 3 pictures of her children; receipts from The Gap, eatons, Banana Republic, Indigo Books, and for dry cleaning (2), baby clothes from the Bay. (She's due in March.)
STATEMENT: “For a long time I kept a receipt in my wallet from when my husband, Nino, and I had just started dating. We went away for the weekend and the man at the hotel had written ‘Mr. and Mrs. Ricci’ on the receipt. I never showed him until a couple of years after we were married.”

• “Show Me Your Money Face”: a photo meme. The original reddit thread here. And a tumblr combining the meme with the “We Are the 99%” movement, giving a “human face” to money or maybe transforming the “face value” of cash.

 We recently happened across a variation of the "Money Face" meme: matching famous U.S. monuments with their depictions on dollar bills (available here, among other sites).

 The European Central Bank has a wealth of information on its website. It also has a fantastic game, available to play online or as an iPhone app, that lets you play as a central banker: 
Ever wondered what monetary policy is? Or how the key interest rate affects inflation? Play €CONOMIA and find out how it works. Your goal: Keep inflation low and stable at just under 2%. Your tool: the key interest rate.
Unlike the Fed, the ECB's only mandate is to keep inflation low and stable. (via Planet Money)

 Also be sure to check out the ECB's other educational resources, including this amazing cartoon on price stability and the quantity theory of money. Watch out for the inflation monster!

                                                                          Photo via the WSJ.

• NPR's Planet Money team documents the rising prices of New York City taxi medallions, two of which sold on October 20 for $1 million each. Apparently, the market in medallions has generated “a whole industry” including a company that specializes in loans for prospective medallion buyers. Felix Salmon of Reuters takes a closer look.

• The Economist blog begs for more anthropologists on Wall Street and anthropologist Jason Antrosio writes a “manifesto” arguing for anthropology’s relevance in understanding capitalism.

• There’s an app for that—specifically, for those who want to make a payment to someone with only that person’s email address, phone number, or Facebook ID. That is, if you live in Australia and have an iPhone. The app, called Kaching, also allows payments via near field communication (NFC) readers.

• The Vatican released a report on the world financial crisis a few months ago (entitled Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of a Global Public Authority), which warns of “idolatry of the market” and suggests the necessity of a “global political authority” and a “central world bank” in order to reassert “the primacy of the spiritual and of ethics […] and, with them, the primacy of politics—which is responsible for the common good—over the economy and finance.” NPR has two pieces debating the significance of the document. Thomas Woods, an economic historian associated with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, writes that it’s not idolatry of the market but of central banking that produced the recent crisis—and thus that what’s needed is not “another layer of supervision,” but “a serious moral and economic re-evaluation of institutions, among them central banking (and fiat money), that we have long taken for granted.” Thomas Reese, on the other hand, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, compares the Vatican’s position with that of the Occupy Wall Street movement, arguing that the Church is throwing its weight behind the “redistribution of wealth” and the reorientation of the economic system towards ethical, social, and political concerns.

• There is a long history, of course, to the relationship between Catholicism and capitalism, even if we tend to associate the rise of industrial capitalism in Western Europe with the Protestant Reformation (thanks Weber!). The New York Times documents a recent example of that relationship with a story of the Sisters of St. Francis, an order of nuns who both critique and work actively with major corporations under the umbrella organization Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility to advocate for a range of issues, including executive pay (People who have done well have a right to their earnings. What we’re talking about here is excess, and how much money is enough for any human being.”), labor practices, and consumer protection (subscription required if you've already fulfilled your quota of Times stories/month).

• And finally, I'll leave you with this report and video from Ukraine, where authorities have begun to accept applications for the granting of free plots of land. Darth Vader showed up to submit his claim, announcing that since many (local legislature) deputies and the mayor have switched to the dark side [...] I have come for a land plot [...] for my space cruiser.” Officials in Odessa accepted his application, while asserting, “We are not on the dark side; we are light-side people." (The stunt was apparently meant as a critique of the land grant process, which has been open to accusations of corruption. Can someone more familiar with the post-socialist property situation provide some context?)

That’s all for now. Again, if you would like to share a weird money phenomenon with us and our readers, please send the info to Taylor Nelms at

1 comment:

  1. I am sorry to here that you were mugged in Ecuador, one good thing could be as you mentioned and that is the possibility of paying via NFC on your smartphone, especially as many taxi's are now including NFC readers.
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