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The psychological elements required for a barter system to exist and function are not only far simpler than those required for a simple monetary system, but every historical example of monetary systems requires and incorporates the basic psychological elements that make barter possible.It is very simple to trade a piece of meat for a piece of fruit (even a caveman can do it), but to create and use tools to make hash marks on a stick or piece of leather to represent that someone gave you a piece of meat and now you owe them a piece of meat is a far more complex set of thought processes requiring a knowledge of making tools, knowledge of crude numerical systems, etc..For example, a farmer has to find someone who not only wants the grain he produced but who could also offer something in return that the farmer wants.Finding people to barter with is a time-consuming process and this factor is most likely the main driving force in the creation of monetary systems – people seeking a way to stop wasting their time looking for someone to barter with.

With barter, an individual possessing any surplus of value, such as a measure of grain or a quantity of livestock, could directly exchange it for something perceived to have similar or greater value or utility, such as a clay pot or a tool, however, the capacity to carry out barter transactions is limited in that it depends on a coincidence of wants.The commodity theory of money (money of exchange) is preferred by those who wish to view money as a natural outgrowth of market activity.Others view the credit theory of money (money of account) as more plausible and may posit a key role for the state in establishing money.Finally, there is a clear break from the use of bronze in barter into its undebatable use as money because of lighter measures of bronze not intended to be used as anything other than coinage for transactions.The aes grave (heavy bronze) (or As) is the start of the use of coins in Rome, but not the oldest known example of metal coinage.

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There is no evidence, historical or contemporary, of a society in which barter is the main mode of exchange.