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Describing how money, barter, and credit were used.



  • Describe how money was not commonly used in early agricultural societies.

  • Explain how settlers of the early colony of Virginia did not have a common currency and so bartering using goods and services for exchange existed.

  • Introduce the following terms:
    • Money: A medium of exchange (currency, which includes coins and paper bills)
    • Barter: Trading/exchanging of goods and services without the use of money Credit: Buying a good or service now and paying for it later
    • Debt: A good or service owed to another
    • Saving: Money put away to save or to spend at a later time

  • Divide students into four groups and give each group one of the following terms: money, credit, debt, and savings. Have each group define the word and generate a skit to perform for the class to teach their peers what they learned. Give the group a sentence strip to write the word and definition to be posted for easy reference and review.

  • Have students make an Economic Terms booklet, writing a definition and either drawing a picture or writing a sentence using each economic term.

  • Review that tobacco was a cash crop and was often referred to as green gold; therefore, it was used as money. Farmers, for example, would barter their harvested tobacco for goods and services. Emphasize that few people had paper money and coins to pay for goods and services, therefore, they often purchased needed items on credit, promising to pay their debts when their crops were harvested and sold.

  • Ask students, “When your parents need money, where do they go to get it?” (You want them to relate banks as resource.) Ask, “Were there banks in colonial times?” List reasons why or why not. Explain that in colonial times there were no banks in Virginia. (The first bank of the United States was established in 1791.)

  • Tell student that colonial Virginia had no banks.

  • Separate students into small groups to create products that may have been used by the colonial people. Hold a market day activity in class to barter and exchange their products.




  • http://www.continentalline.org
    This site contains a wealth of information about the Revolutionary War. At the bottom of the home page, click on "Excerpts from The Continental Soldier, the quarterly newsletter of the Continental Soldier." When the index appears, type "Currency" into the search. An article entitled, "Currency and Finance in the 18th Century," will appear describing in detail the economics of the 1700s. The reading level is too difficult for elementary school students, but it's a great teacher resource. The Continental Line is a non-profit educational organization of recreated units representing the Continental Army, the various colonial militias, the Continental Navy, the Continental Marines, and units in the service of the French King during the American Revolution.

  • http://www.coins.nd.edu/ColCoin/ColCoinIntros/MA-Pence.intro.html
    This is a resource for telling the history of money in the colonies and would best be used as a teacher guided-resource. "By the end of the seventeenth century, the number of inhabitants and, consequently, the number of merchants in major colonial cities had grown to the extent that the use of barter, wampum, and other money substitutes were too cumbersome even for small transactions. Local merchants found it increasingly difficult to sell daily staples with money substitutes."

  • http://www.vahistorical.org/what-you-can-see/story-virginia?legacy=true
    This site consists of ten concise, easy-to-read chapters on Virginia history from prehistoric times to the present.

  • http://www.historyisfun.org/PDFbooks/Life_at_Jamestown.pdf
    This site provides a copy of the booklet Life at Jamestown as written by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation. The booklet provides further information on the Virginia Assembly of 1619.

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Updated on August 11, 2008.