Investing Answers Building and Protecting Your Wealth through Education Publisher of The Next Banks That Could Fail
Investing Answers Building and Protecting Your Wealth through Education Publisher of The Next Banks That Could Fail

Paper Money

What it is:

Paper money is a medium of exchange for goods or services within an economy. It is printed on paper, rather than in coin form.

How it works (Example):

Paper notes are the most generally accepted forms of paper money. In most cases, each country in the world has its own paper money, but in many cases several countries use the same  money (such as the Euro or the U.S. dollar). A country's government designs and manufactures that country's paper money.

Some paper money is fiat money, meaning that it has no intrinsic value. That is, the paper used to create the money is not worth very much in terms of its value as a raw material. Most paper money is fiat money, and its value comes from what it represents rather than what it is. Before 1971, the U.S. dollar was not fiat money -- it was backed by a corresponding amount of gold held with the Federal Reserve.

Why it Matters:

Most paper money only has value because people want it. This idea is what made beaver pelts, shells, peppercorns, tulip bulbs and other things into money at various points in history. However, when the demand (or fashion) faded for some of these goods (or more people found they really needed corn instead of beaver pelts), these systems became cumbersome. Paper money solves this problem because it is exchangeable for any good or service that people want (rather than just beaver pelts).

This isn't to say that paper is the only form of viable money today. Quite often, companies use shares of their own stock as money to acquire other companies, and anybody who has ever watched a crime show knows that cigarettes can buy a lot in prison.

Related Terms View All
  • Auction Market
    Though most of the trading is done via computer, auction markets can also be operated via...
  • Best Execution
    Let's assume you place an order to buy 100 shares of Company XYZ stock. The current quote...
  • Book-Entry Savings Bond
    Savings bonds are bonds issued by the U.S. government at face values ranging from $50 to...
  • Break-Even Point
    The basic idea behind break-even point is to calculate the point at which revenues begin...
  • Calendar Year
    If Company XYZ starts its fiscal year on January 1 and ends its fiscal year on December...