Cover

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Half Title, Series Titles, Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. vi-viii

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Foreword: Dead Money

Bruce Sterling

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pp. ix-xii

I was charmed by this book. It’s chock-full of wonder and sadness.

I’m a novelist, but also an amateur historian of media. In my historical studies, I look for data with page-turning qualities, something eye-catching, marvelous, and maybe grotesque. Something that offers a high “Cahill Factor,” with the quirky and scarcely credible qualities of the legendary ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xiv

We would like to thank Tom Boellstorff and Kevin Driscoll for their support and encouragement while we were completing this volume. We would also like to thank Jenny Fan, Julio Rodriguez, the Institute for Money, Technology, and Financial Inclusion (IMTFI) at UC Irvine, and the (former) Intel Science ...

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Introduction: Curating Transactional Things

Bill Maurer, Lana Swartz

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pp. xv-xxviii

Consider this book a catalog for an exhibition that never happened. Each contribution takes up an ephemeral object connected to the act of payment, a transactional thing that unlike metal coins or paper banknotes would rarely make it into a display case—or, in some cases, even be impossible to curate. Money is the most obvious transactional thing. ...

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1. Dongles

Scott Mainwaring

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pp. 1-12

I recently ducked into a small independent coffee shop for a quick midday recaffeination, placing my order with the barista/ cashier staffing the shop. She took my order, I handed her my IHG Visa rewards card for payment, and she swiped it through a Square Reader plugged into an iPhone. ...

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2. Checks

Lisa Servon

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pp. 13-18

In 1939, amendments to the Social Security Act added two new categories of benefits: payments to the spouse and minor children of a retired worker (so-called dependents benefits); and survivors’ benefits paid to the family in the event of the premature death of a covered worker. This change transformed Social Security from a retirement program ...

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3. Tattoos

Lynn H. Gamble

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pp. 19-28

One of the earliest types of money in the world is the shell bead. In what is now California and elsewhere, bead makers had tedious jobs that entailed gathering shells, breaking them open, and chipping them into rough disks. Once rough disks were roughly formed, they were then perforated with stone drills, strung, and finely ground down. ...

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4. Mag Stripe

David L. Stearns

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pp. 29-40

I’ve always been fascinated by plastic payment cards. I’ve spent many years studying and writing about the systems that lie behind them, but I also love just handling and admiring the cards themselves. I love the way the plastic substrate is light yet remarkably durable, able to take on any kind of graphic design imaginable and still scrape ice off a windshield (albeit poorly). ...

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5. Accounts

Taylor C. Nelms

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pp. 41-52

Cash is not generally thought of as a cutting-edge payment technology. Cash, it is often said, is dirty; cash is risky; cash is anonymous; cash is dangerous; cash mediates everyday, informal, popular, street, or subsistence economies; cash is for laundering; cash is for storing away in safes and coffee cans. Cash, like the livelihoods it moves through, exists apart. ...

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6. Dogecoin

Sarah Jeong

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pp. 53-70

The Jamaican two-man bobsled team qualified for the Sochi Winter Olympics, but didn’t have the money to attend. So they turned to crowdfunding on the Internet. The campaign went viral, and the publicity induced the International Olympic Committee to pay their travel costs. The money from the crowdfunding campaign (eventually over $180,000) ...

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7. Khipu

Gary Urton

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pp. 71-84

The history of record keeping in early accounting traditions—in times and places distant from the home of double-entry bookkeeping in the mercantile, capitalist economies of fourteenth- to sixteenth-century western Europe—is a story of marks impressed in clay tablets, incised turtle scapula, painted papyri, ...

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8. Cards

Lana Swartz

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pp. 85-98

“Cash, which was born several thousand years ago, the son of Barter, the adopted child of Trade, died today,” read the March 12, 1963, front page of the Winsted Citizen.1 The editorial, an “obituary” for cash, was written by Matty Simmons, executive vice president of the Diners’ Club. Cash, the editorial went on to explain, ...

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9. Cash

Alexandra Lippman

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pp. 99-116

The e-mail—more of a cypher—announced a “discreet opening” for Squamuglia, an occasional coffee shop open 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. It listed no address, only an intersection in Los Angeles. After parking, Lana Swartz, Kevin Driscoll, and I walked down a residential street lined with towering palm trees until we reached something unusual: ...

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10. Signatures

Bill Maurer

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pp. 117-132

Before it disappears, consider the human signature, created by a living hand by an embodied person holding a stylus that deposits traces of graphite, ink, or some other colored substance on a piece of paper.

Before it disappears, consider the electronic signature pad. The signature pad is an electronic touch screen device. ...

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11. Tallies

David Graeber

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pp. 133-144

It’s not just snowflakes and fingerprints that are unique. Most things are. And almost anything becomes unique the moment that you break it. All you have to do is snap an ordinary object in two—a stick, say, or a piece of crockery—and it will typically split in a way so singular that even if one breaks apart a thousand similar sticks or bits of crockery, ...

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12. Sharing

Maria Bezaitis

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pp. 145-154

The photograph is of an espresso maker offered to the homeowner by someone who stayed as a guest in her home.1 The host accepted this espresso maker as a gift from her guest, a gift that reveals a specific set of circumstances: the host had helped her guest with packages that needed to be shipped, offering her own home’s address, ...

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13. Leaves

Whitney Anne Trettien

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pp. 155-166

In 1738, Benjamin Franklin began printing leaves of money. Actual leaves. By pressing thickly veined foliage into a cloth-covered plaster mold, Franklin had devised a method for casting relief blocks directly from nature. The resulting prints show cut sage, a trio of raspberry leaves, and delicate fern fronds, embedded in the coarse weave of a crooked cloth. ...

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14. Minitel

Julien Mailland

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pp. 167-184

As I was growing up in Paris, there was a strange plastic cube sitting in the living room of my family’s apartment. It was beige in color and would have nicely tied the room together in a French version of That ’70s Show. With the press of a button, one of the cube’s side panels would fall open to reveal a keyboard on the inside of the panel and tube screen lodged inside the cube. ...

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15. Receipts

Jane I. Guyer

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pp. 185-196

Perhaps due to a childhood routine from the 1950s in Britain, I pause over the receipt itself that records the individual transaction and its physical fate: what it is (a piece of paper, a mark on a card, etc.); how it moves; whether and where it is kept; and what happens next. A receipt is a proof of an event in the past. ...

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16. ATMs

Bernardo Bátiz-Lazo

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pp. 197-210

Automated teller machines (ATMs) are ubiquitous, and most adults living in urban areas around the world have interacted with one. They are often portrayed in the media as the omnipresent point of contact with today’s otherwise-digital bank. Lyrics in popular music from artists as diverse as Britney Spears and Radiohead have referenced ATMs. ...

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17. Greybacks

Keith Hart

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pp. 211-222

I left Cambridge, England, in 1965, to begin anthropological fieldwork in Ghana for my doctoral dissertation. The first thing I did when I arrived there was to head to the university to meet a famous American professor. He was a friend of my supervisor. I expected him to be interested in my research and perhaps even me, but all he wanted to know was whether I had hard currency, ...

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18. The Swipe

Michael Palm

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pp. 223-236

The transitive verb swipe traditionally describes acts of theft and violence. To swipe something means to steal it, while taking a swipe at someone involves a punch or slap. Recently these actions have been joined, if not supplanted, in the popular imagination by two new meanings: running your charge card through a digital reader, ...

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19. Ether

Rachel O’Dwyer

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pp. 237-248

In June 2014, a Vietnamese gang of four made off with a bank loan worth VND35 billion (approximately US$1.5 million). The collateral used to secure the ill-gotten gains? Counterfeit airtime credit stubs worth approximately VND400 million. The plan was put into motion when the four purchased VND100,000 in credit vouchers from the Vietnam telecom company ...

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20. Silver

Finn Brunton

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pp. 249-258

About a half hour north of the Mount Washington Hotel, in New Hampshire, and almost exactly seventy years to the day after it hosted the Bretton Woods Conference—the founding event of the postwar global monetary order—I was in a field in the White Mountains, using pieces of new-minted silver to purchase Wi-Fi access and a red Solo cup full of paleo cereal. ...

Illustration Credits

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pp. 259-262

Index

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pp. 263-288