We've probably all had the experience of being stuck in line at the pharmacy with a box of prophylactics, some tampons and some apple sauce, and found out far too late that we don't have the cash to cover it.
Don't you wish there was something else you could trade instead of that "money" stuff you never seem to have? Well many parts of the world are way ahead of you, ditching money in favor of...
Everyone has a damn cell phone these days. You can't urinate on the front doors of a library any more without at least three passers-by phoning the cops and having you picked up. For that reason, maybe it's not entirely surprising that in some rural parts of Africa, cell phone scratch cards have actually become a form of currency.
Despite having a GDP on par with your average 7-Eleven, the Congo has several million cell phones and subscriptions have increased 150% in the last year, which means everyone in Buttfuck Nowhere, Africa really wants to talk to someone else all the time. Now that they can, they've taken to buying airtime vouchers or "scratch cards" and texting the codes to others who can then use the codes to redeem the cash value right away in a sort of rudimentary money transfer system that happens instantly and costs the price of a text message.
The practice is so widespread that these scratch cards are now acceptable currency for bribing officials. As an added bonus, you can pay the bribes remotely with this method, so there's no need for the cops to even take you downtown to bribe the judge when you can pay them all off at the same time. Ah, technology. Simultaneously bribing multiple government officials to quietly overlook your backyard sex parties has never been easier.
Guerima, Colombia may be the most intense little village you've never heard of. While it's unlikely they're all skydivers drinking Mountain Dew and listening to one of those screaming, loud bands the kids these days love so much, the residents do have enough blow to keep themselves wired and tweaking 24/7.
The President of Guerima.
It seems Colombia, in an effort to do something to curb its drug trade, has tried to stop Marxist rebels from trafficking in cocaine. One of the ways they did this was to deploy the army to remote areas and block access to places where cocaine is grown and processed, places like Guerima.
So imagine a little town in Idaho growing potatoes until one day the army comes and stops anyone from coming in and buying those potatoes to make delicious, addictive, potentially lethal french fries. Now the little town has a shitload of potatoes and no money. So how do you get by? The people of Geurima, (population of 1,000), just replaced cash with powder. Without FARC rebels paying for cocaine, the people of the town use it to conduct transactions amongst themselves and, according to reports, one gram will get you a bottle of Coca-Cola.
If this society can actually pull off their homemade economic system, well, kudos. But we're betting heavily that the "Trapping 1,000 People in a Tiny Village with Nothing to Do But Pass Cocaine Around" Plan is eventually going to backfire in a pretty huge way.
Prisons can be pretty wacky places. Morgan Freeman might hang around and share his wisdom with you. Adam Sandler might ask you to join his football team. You may even get to play softball with George Bluth. Oh, and the sodomy. The violent, nightly, sodomy. (What'd we tell you? Wacky, right?)
Because of all that wackiness, drug screening is becoming more prominent in our nation's penitentiaries, in an effort to ensure all those non-consensual amorous shower rendezvous are at least done while clean and sober. The easiest way to screen for drugs is with a urine sample and, unfortunately, prison is not populated by an entirely honest group of folks.
As a result, clean urine has become a valuable commodity in prisons. Clean samples can be traded in condoms which are then stored in a really warm place to ensure they stay at body temperature. What warm place can you hide a condom full of pee that will keep it at body temperature? If you guessed in your anus, you're disgusting, but also correct.
If you're unfamiliar with the island of Yap, it's because it barely exists. If you took Disney World and put it out in the middle of the ocean, that would pretty much encompass the same land mass as Yap. Call it Micronesia and suddenly it's its own country, complete with a population of about 6,000 people.
The people of Yap had a curious tradition of using big ass stones as currency. How big ass? Big ass like 15 feet in diameter and weighing about 2 tons. In fact, the bigger the stone and the more difficult it was to move, the more it was worth, because as we all know, cumbersome shit is really worthwhile, just ask anyone who still has one of those giant half wooden TVs from the 70s or an 8-track player.
They would even sail canoes to other islands to bring back the giant stones with which they could purchase coconuts or wine coolers or whatever it is the people of a tiny island nation need to buy with 12 foot rocks.
The official currency of Yap became the US dollar a little while back, but the stones, nearly 7,000 of which are still all over the island, are used for traditional exchanges, as in marriages or land transfers and, presumably, to bowl downhill over your poorer enemies, who are forced to flee in terror and scatter paltry pebbles in their wake.
You may not be entirely familiar with the African republic of Cameroon, but all you really need to know is that it's apparently populated with scores of enterprising drunkards. Breweries in Cameroon, like the Coca-Cola company here in North America, thought putting prizes under the bottle caps would be a pretty sweet way to gain a sales advantage over the competition. The competition agreed and then pretty much every beer company had prizes under the caps.
Unlike Coca-Cola, where you've got a small fraction of a chance to win anything, the beer companies have a prize under almost every cap. The smallest prize is a beer and larger prizes include cell phones and luxury cars, because if you're piss drunk on mountains of free beer, you'll need to call someone to tow your wrecked luxury car.
Since a beer is worth about a buck and apparently everyone and their uncle is an alcoholic, locals have started using the caps instead of money to pay for things like cab rides. The cab drivers, possibly due to being drunk, end up having run-ins with the local cops, who they in turn pay off with bottle caps.
It's a fun cycle of alcoholic enabling that can't possibly be profitable for the breweries, but we're guessing their executives are also much too drunk to care.
If you've never been to Canada, or never needed to shop for slightly overpriced retail items at a store that's basically Wal-Mart with a worse selection, you may not be familiar with Canadian Tire.
Nonetheless, Canadian Tire has been offering Canadian Tire Money for about 50 years. It looks vaguely like real money and serves as a customer loyalty program. You make a purchase and a certain percentage of the money you spent is given back to you in the form of Canadian Tire money, which are coupons redeemable for any item at the store. Generally you spend a few bucks and are given a few cents. It's quite unremarkable.
What's remarkable is that businesses across Canada such as liquor stores and small bars have adopted Canadian Tire money as a real substitute for cash and will accept it on a number of transactions. As Canadian Tire also operates their own chain of gas stations, numerous smaller businesses are willing to accept the money which they can then use to shop for items or gas at Canadian Tire. eBay Canada accepts Canadian Tire money as an official form of payment and back in the 90s, a German criminal committed to buying a lot of car parts and camping supplies was caught with $11,000,000 in counterfeit Canadian Tire money.
Because condoms full of piss can't buy everything, like love, or something that doesn't smell like piss, prison economics give us another winner with Mackerel. Ever since smoking started to be banned in prisons a few years back, prisoners needed something else to serve as the local currency. Straight out of left field came mackerel. We wish that "mackerel" was some new, hip prison slang, but it's not. We're totally talking about fish.
The mackerel is stuffed into plastic and foil packages and distributed to the prisoners, because (as if prison wasn't bad enough) everyone should have to carry around little change purses full of rotting, disgusting fish all day. Two packs of mackerel will apparently get you a haircut and, if the Wall Street Journal is to believed, prisoners actually call it "the mack" which we're not about to make fun of because we don't want a nation of fish-wielding felons angry with us. The reason mackerel is so popular as a stand-in for money is that a pouch costs a dollar and no one actually wants to eat it. This in turn may make you wonder why anyone wants the packs at all, but you have to remember it's prison and they need something other than toilet wine and hate crimes to keep them busy. And, again, the nightly, violent sodomy.
As you may or may not be aware, no one lives in space. Nonetheless, the National Space Centre and the University of Leicester in England designed the "Quid," the Quasi Universal Intergalactic Denomination, as a means of currency for interplanetary travelers. Again, we would be remiss if we failed to point out that there are currently no interplanetary travelers.
According to actual scientists with real credentials who invented the currency, it's made from polymers and has no sharp edges, unlike our modern coins which are responsible for no less than 500 decapitations per year in Idaho alone. Because it's predicted we could be taking regular trips into space to visit Disney MoonWorld as early as 2050, it's a good thing they got on inventing a suitable currency now so it will have plenty of time to devalue before it's needed and future moon strippers will be able to improvise a way to hold smooth plastic nuggets in their G-strings.
More of Ian's writing can be found at Scenic Anemia.
For more frightening facts about money, check out The 6 Most Horrifying Ways Anyone Ever Got Rich. Or find out about some celebrities who wish they could use their bodily fluids to pay for groceries in 6 Famous People Who Pissed Away a Fortune.