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What is fiat money and how does it differ from commodity money?

Relevant Topics

This question pertains to topics in Microeconomics and Macroeconomics, such as Money Supply, Types of Money, Fiat Money, Commodity Money


Fiat Money: This is a type of currency that is issued by a government and is not backed by a physical commodity like gold or silver. Its value derives solely from the trust and faith of the people who use it.

Commodity Money:
This is money whose value comes from a commodity of which it is made. Commodity money consists of objects that have intrinsic value, such as precious metals like gold or silver.

Detailed Explanation:

Fiat Money
Characteristics of Fiat Money:
No Intrinsic Value: It does not have value on its own. Its value is established by government regulation or law.
Government Issued: It is issued and regulated by the central authorities, such as a central bank.
Based on Trust: Its acceptance is based on the trust that it will be accepted by others in exchange for goods and services.
Example: Modern paper currency like the British Pound or the US Dollar.

Commodity Money
Characteristics of Commodity Money:
Intrinsic Value: Commodity money has value in itself, often linked to the material from which it is made.
Limited Supply: The supply is often restricted by the availability of the commodity.
Can be Bulky and Impractical: Depending on the commodity, it can be heavy or difficult to divide.
Example: Gold coins used as money.

Comparison Between Fiat Money and Commodity Money
Value Source: Fiat money derives its value from government regulation, while commodity money derives its value from the material it is made from.
Supply: Commodity money is limited by its availability, while fiat money can be printed by the government in theoretically unlimited quantities.
Durability: Fiat money is generally more practical and less bulky than many forms of commodity money.
Backing: Fiat money is not backed by any physical commodity, unlike commodity money.


United States switching from the Gold Standard: The US Dollar was once backed by gold (commodity money). In 1971, President Nixon announced that the US Dollar would no longer be directly convertible to gold, transitioning it to fiat money.

European Union's Euro:
The Euro is an example of fiat money used across many European countries. It's not backed by any physical commodity but is accepted across member states.


Fiat money and commodity money are two essential concepts in understanding the types of money used in economies. Fiat money is government-issued and relies on trust, with no intrinsic value. Commodity money, on the other hand, derives its value from the physical material it's made of. The shift from commodity money to fiat money has been a significant evolution in modern economics, allowing for more flexible monetary policies and broader economic stability.

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