Why is this money shaped like a tool?

Aligned to elementary social studies learning standards, Really BIG Money teaches children about world cultures and supports the development of financial literacy.


Many communities have designed money in the shape of objects that are important to them, such as tools and weapons. They usually do not make them sharp, though. They were only supposed to be used to make payments.

Iron blade (liganda), Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1800s

Gift of Elvira Clain-Stefanelli

View object record

This tall blade was used by a Turumbu (too-ROOM-boo) community of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for wedding gifts and to purchase important items, such as a canoe.

This Congolese blade is 5 feet, 7 inches tall. Imagine measuring your height next to this blade! 


These pieces of money shaped like knives were used in China for a wide range of purchases. They are more than 2,000 years old, making them one of the first coins in world history.