Fiat Money Overview, History, How It Works, Pros and Cons


A red book summary of the value of banknotes and coins in circulation is shown in the table below where the local currency is converted to US dollars using the end of the year rates. The value of this physical currency as a percentage of GDP ranges from a maximum of 19.4% in Japan to a minimum of 1.7% in Sweden with the overall average for all countries in the table being 8.9% (7.9% for the US). The Bretton Woods system was ended by what became known as the Nixon shock.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing – Here, you can buy new bills or coins directly from government agency that creates them. The development of mobile payment platforms, such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet, and apps such as PayPal and Venmo are now paving the way for the cashless future. Please note that an investment in crypto assets carries risks in addition to the opportunities described above. An otherwise non-valuable object that serves as a medium of exchange .

Representative Money

fiat vs commodity, some argue, remains physical such as coins, notes, and credit cards. And money equals an intangible concept denoting the value we place in a currency as having a value. M2 aggregates include all the money supply M1 covers and add some other assets such as saving accounts and time deposits. Holders of fiduciary money use it to make payments at later dates.


Although inflation can be problematic, at least, it is usually predictable. What is worse is a currency that can fluctuate up and down unpredictably. Ron Paul, a US Congressman, wants to go on the gold standard because its supply cannot be abused by the government. Bitcoin is a new type of money based on cryptography, where supply is limited by its own rules.

Example of Fiat Money Gone Wrong: Hyperinflation

First, one objection to fiat money is the lack of intrinsic value, and opponents of fiat money often claim that a system using fiat money is inherently fragile because fiat money doesn’t have a non-money value. The main reason why Bitcoin is so popular today is because people are buying it hoping that they will be able to sell it for much higher price later on. Without that profit incentive, there would be no apparent reason for people to even buy stablecoins. The creation of cryptocurrency must be governed by strict rules to limit the supply, which is necessary for it to retain any value whatsoever.

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For convenience and to avoid these price changes, many governments issue fiat currency. The value of fiat money is derived from the relationship between supply and demand and the stability of the issuing government, rather than the worth of a commodity backing it as is the case for commodity money. Fiat money has a fixed value in most cases, but it does change sometimes, if at all. The value of fiat money fluctuates due to factors such as government policy and the economy of the country. Fiat money has several advantages, including the fact that it is the only natural resource used in the production of the notes, that it is stable, that the government controls its supply, and so on.

Commodity money is created from precious metals such as gold and silver, while representative money represents a claim on a commodity that can be redeemed. Commodity money is the end product of a natural resource that is classified as a type of money and has intrinsic worth. Gold, silver, copper, tea, and other commodities are examples of commodity money. And we all know that goods like gold, silver, copper and other precious metals are mined from the earth and polished before being sold on the market.

Fiat money is issued by the authority of the government and does not have any backing of any physical asset . Fiat money is valued by its face value even though its intrinsic value is lower than its commodity value. Consumer confidence in the government puts value on fiat money. The value of fiat money or its exchange rate comes from the supply-demand forces in the foreign exchange market. The stability of the government is the main factor that changes the value of fiat money. Fiat money is mostly paper currency issued by the central bank by the authority of the government.

That differs from backed by gold, for example; it has intrinsic value because of the demand for gold in jewelry and decoration as well as the manufacture of electronic devices, computers, and aerospace vehicles. The value of fiat money is based largely on public faith in the issuer. Commodity money’s value, on the other hand, is based on the material it was manufactured with, such as gold or silver. Fiat money, therefore, does not have intrinsic value, while commodity money often does.

Many governments no longer think commodity money is in the best interests of the public. The Subprime Mortgage Crisis of 2007 showed that the central bank can’t always control everything needed to fully protect the economy. So, when we say a currency backed by the government itself, that’s fiat money. Ultimately, the fiat money has value because the government says it does — there is no physical backing behind them. The good’s fungible units should be of a generally uniform quality so that they can be interchanged. If multiple units of an item have varying attributes, their value in future transactions may not be constant or dependable.


Another disadvantage of cryptocurrencies is that the government does not benefit from seigniorage, the profit from the creation of money, which can be substantial. For instance, in 2021, the United States supply of M2 money was about $20 trillion. If the US increases its money supply by 3% annually, that is an extra $600 billion annually that would otherwise have to be collected from taxes. Money can be broadly classified as commodity money, representative money, fiat money, or electronic money.

  • All of the above were forms of commodity money backed by a physical commodity that had an accepted value by all.
  • Commodity money is created from precious metals such as gold and silver, while representative money represents a claim on a commodity that can be redeemed.
  • Such money was sold at a discount of silver, which the government would then spend, and would expire at a fixed date later.
  • Nowadays, there are different types of currencies — some can be backed by a government, such as fiat currencies, and some are decentralized and backed by blockchain technology, such as cryptocurrencies.

Money has been a part of our human history for about 3,000 years, give or take. Money has evolved from bartering to credit cards, with some elements of bartering still in existence today. For example, DOGE a check of a thousand dollars you receive from the company you work in will still retain value even if you cash it out a month later. Full BioSuzanne is a content marketer, writer, and fact-checker.

For example, the Federal Government of the United States turned to a form of fiat currency referred to as “Greenbacks” during the American Civil War. The government halted the convertibility of its paper money to gold or silver during this war. Fiat money refers to the currency of an economy that has the backing of the government.

Although most of these people purchase only a small fraction of a Bitcoin, the demand created by many people around the world trying out Bitcoin may lead to a big demand overall, causing its price to increase. Almost all major economies have central banks that regulate the supply of money. A central bank can increase or decrease the money supply according to the needs of the economy. If there is too little money for the economy, then the money becomes more valuable, so people hoard it, thereby contracting the economy. This is the primary disadvantage with any type of currency in limited supply, be it gold or cryptocurrency. Economists generally believe that high rates of inflation and hyperinflation are caused by an excessive growth of the money supply.

  • The problem here has to do with the establishment of businesses and oligopolies that process fiat currencies.
  • Debasement means that money, typically metal coins, is devalued because there is less precious metal in the coin than the value stamped on its face.
  • Federal Reserve has a dual mandate to keep the unemployment rate and inflation rate low.
  • The difference between fiat money and representative money is that fiat money gets its value from demand and supply.
  • Instead, the fiat money value comes from the public’s trust in the issuer, the government.

Major examples of fiat money are currencies and they are Indian rupees, US dollar, British pound, etc. On the other hand, major examples of commodity money are things like gold, silver, copper, tea, etc. Fiat money refers to the money that is issued by the government of the respective countries and also the value of each currency is decided by them itself. The value of the currency is decided by each country’s respective head bank. The currency is legal and can be issued only by the government and no other party. Example of fiat money includes the Indian rupee, US dollars, British pound, etc.

Why is fiat money better than commodity money?

Unlike commodity monies, fiat currencies allow the central banks to print or hold money as they see fit to help control the money supply, inflation, interest rates, and liquidity.

Gold has existed as a form of money, whether a commodity or fiat, for as long as humans have known about gold. In our eyes, it has achieved a value that transcends all other store holders of wealth. And the list could go on and on; think back to yourself as a kid, and you used to swap toys, books, games, or baseball cards.


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