Bitcoin, cryptocurrency and their 17th century counterpart I Curator’s Corner S4 Ep2 #CuratorsCorner

hi my name's Ben Allsop welcome to my corner so today I want to talk to you about collecting the unofficial so we're here in the Department of coins and medals but that name is something of a misnomer because we have over 3/4 million objects in this department but they're not all just kinds of medals a few years go south to collect more broadly so we collect things to do with money and if you go to the money gallery you will see some of the things we have but what's interesting about this 4,000 years of history is that whilst currency which is of course a representation of money money is an idea it's a human construct these representations of money are normally given by an authority B to king a queen and Emperor or a central bank or suchlike but there are X incidents in history where money's been created outside of these bounds of an authority outside what you would expect to be the usual issuers of money here in my hand I have a piece of paper now this is a proclamation from 1670 to by charles ii it's not the original proclamation this is in Times New Roman and he was more of a comic sans kind of guy this proclamation begins where as of late years several persons and corporations upon pretense that they're wanted small money's to be current have presumed to cause certain pieces of brass copper and other base metals to be stamped with their private stamps and then impose these pieces upon our poor whereby our subjects have been greatly defrauded and our royal authority and the laws of our kingdom violated now what is he talking about he's talking about these small brown and round tokens these tokens were created in the middle of the 17th century for about the 1640s to the 1670s now they don't look much you could easily walk past them when you see them in the gallery but they're fascinating insights into the 17th century and they speak of a society that has a need for small change so what does it do it creates its own it doesn't worry about central authorities it doesn't worry about diktats and proclamations local shopkeepers actually issue their own money well for instance on this image we have the rather fine image of a monkey smoking a pipe but on the back it tells us where this image was created and it was created in Southwark in London by a man called John Ewing and what it is is a small token issued by a tradesman issued by in this case a tobacconist we know this because of the token he created now tobacco is James the first described it as that precious stink was a very important commodity in 17th century England so this gives us an insight into what may be a 17th century High Street look like in London there are over three and a half thousand separate issuers from about 1640 to 1670s and they get issued throughout the country and they can be pubs inns ale houses stationers oil men so people gave you light cordwainer x' people who made shoes or all these things these are not the stories of kings and queens and emperors who normally adorn our currencies they are the names and professions of ordinary people you and I shopkeepers throughout the land and their unofficial and so that leads in 1670 with charles ii to trying to crush this practices he says they have been imposed upon the poor they haven't been imposed upon the poor they are a necessity people needed them and eventually this becomes a problem throughout the history of precious-metal coinages is how do we supply enough and what do we do if there isn't enough and in the case of society in the UK in the 17th century people made their own so now I want to bring us into the contemporary world and to try and make a link now I'm not saying the link is definite these objects these 17th century tokens they try to fit in with an existing system they tried to fit in with the currency of the day when we look at alternative unofficial currencies today people will think of crypto currencies now I'm no expert on crypto currencies to be honest they scare me slightly they're very complicated in some respects but then what they try to do is quite simple what they're trying to do is remove the central authority from money so they're trying to be what there's known as a peer-to-peer cache where they are actually not requiring any longer the central authority of a central bank or or or or or or a central banking institution and people can trade and spend money themselves between one another without that element of centralization now cryptocurrencies were first proposed in 2009 in a white paper by the mystical mythical sects a katashi Nakamoto bitcoins the most famous of which but there are hundreds of these crypto currencies you have peercoin litecoin etherium famously the doggie coin or dogecoin for a while and there are many hundreds of these things but then how do you collect crypto currencies what do you do to collect these objects which have at their very heart are not meant to be represented in a physical form that is not their point well we clicked ephemera and things around it I suppose that's the best way to do it really so here I have a bit of hardware which is an ant miner this is used obviously to complete the complex computing problems that are required to then obtain Bitcoin now this is a very small example you'd need many hundreds of these doubtless a much better computing power than here this is a kind of an entry level a trainer wheeler fisher-price bubble lawnmower if you will of the ant miner world but it's important we collect something that this represents the hardware involved and then you have things like this which is actually more of a commemorative thing for the commemorative market which is a Bitcoin token created by a man called Mike Caldwell in 2011 now what's being done here is to create a an actual object but to be honest Bitcoin never needs to be represented isn't the whole point of it is it doesn't take physical form in the same way of our currency doesn't today but then I guess the heart of money money is an idea it is a human construct and the things that we have on display in the money gallery are just representations of money in the Lord to a large extent in this digital world in which live this financially digital world where in the modern UK society 97 percent of monies in the form of is created in the form of loans from commercial banks doesn't take physical form what should we as a department be collecting this is where I need your help this is where the museum needs your help so make some suggestions so in three hundred years time someone can sit here and say welcome to my corner let's look at the financial world in the early 2000s let us know what you think we as a department should be collecting to best represent money today thanks ever so much for watching my curators corner I hope you enjoyed it there's a whole bunch of other great videos available on the British Museum YouTube channel subscribe here for more great content also where I'm from which is a small village on the Beveridge a half a Chia border called Shillington previously known as linton they have tokens issued uh sorry that is true but I didn't thought of throwing right proud of it I'm a proud I'm not gonna

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