Crustacean Inflation

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Sand dollar
Sand dollar with claws removed
Photo by Editor B (CC BY 2.0)
The humble sand dollar is the only crustacean to have had a currency named after it. In fact, the Byzantine empire actually used the sand dollar as its currency from 200 - 310 BC, favoring it for its durability and the difficulty of counterfeiting a living animal.

This ultimately led to economic disaster, however, when a particularly warm year caused a glut of krill to wash in from the North Sea, creating an explosion of the sand dollars' population. The resulting hyperinflation was so severe that even a small loaf of bread could easily cost several wheelbarrows full of the now nearly worthless sand dollars. In these hard times, many started literally eating their money, which was technically illegal, but unofficially encouraged.

In 311 BC, Emperor Byzantium III ordered the creation of a new currency. This currency, the "pound sterling" was the first ever to be based on a precious metal, and is still in use in Great Britain to this day.

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