Beads and Washers For Barter

Sat, Jul 27, 2013 - 11:11am

Beads and washers for barter; a ruling class behaviour for wealth and power.

Listen to what I say, don't look at what I do!

I think that the above phrase could be a quote come from the mouth of any ruler of a country, corporate owner, religious leader, or industrial magnate. But they would say that to their inferiors, their subjects and employees, those who represent their personal means of production, not what they would say to their sons and daughters who will one day inherit "the throne" whatever form it happens to be.

It could also be the business plan for a conman.

Let's go back in history 400 years or more. The explorers from Europe bartered, or traded, glass beads which the Native Americans valued highly, in exchange for real goods which were shipped back home can sold for cash. The Native Americans had beads for a long time before, but the manufacture and colours of the glass beads from the traders were from a different technology. You see in Venice, bead making went back thousands of years, and they were very good at it. Also, glass can be used to make a greater variety of shapes and colours than, for instance, bone, antler, wood, copper, or stone. History shows that the Vikings, Christopher Columbus, Spanish explorers, Jesuit priests traded glass beads for commodities in various times and places.

I think that with hindsight we can say which society got the greater wealth out of the deal.

The natives in these places valued what they could not get locally and liked to have. It was scarce and desirable. They traded what they had in abundance in exchange for it. The explorer traders arbitraged for value what they could get cheaply and was desired by "the other side". They ended up with money in staggering amounts, and they got it with cheap glass made from sand.

Who funded those exploration and trading voyages? They were joint ventures, between the ruler and the sea captain, and the proceeds were split 90:10 to the crown, or similar. These were massively profitable ventures, and they lead to the creation of The Hudson Bay Trading Co for one.

Fast forward to today.

I go to the shop, and take cash out of my pocket to buy stuff with. I had to work hard for that cash, and somebody got my intellectual ability and my limited man hours in exchange for their paper. It has writing printed on it, and the paper is manufactured in a special way that I and my friends can not manufacture locally, or at least we could not make them so well. The ruler of my country (Ireland) prints the notes out with happy ease, at the permission of the ECB which is the agent of the ruler of another country or federation of countries depending on your perspective.

So I am in the shop and I buy my newspaper, groceries, and items and I hand over my hard earned paper cash in exchange, and the sales clerk gives me my change. My change is paper, and coins. The small coins are not copper, but copper coloured steel alloy, the larger one and two euro coins are bimetallic. Basically a washer made of nickel-copper with the centre hole filled in with a different alloy of nickel-brass. In other words, a washer nicer in appearance than either I or my friends can make locally.

Though I would make the observation that the new washers down at the hardware store, in boxes of 1000, are shinier, and do have a hole in the middle. If I hold a magnet over my legal tender coins, they stick to magnets the same as the hardware washers. My gold and silver coins don't stick to my magnet, no steel there.

I feel like I'm being paid the same as 16th century Native American/Polynesian-African by the rulers of society - with coloured paper and washers instead of coloured beads though. Not much change!

So the people who trade these paper and steel coins often have their logo on the back. So I checked it out on the internet which is handy for looking up stuff like that.

Here's a nice picture of Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth in her Bank of England vault:

Those shelves might be made of steel.

Let me just try that search again .....

No steel or paper there ..... President Putin's got gold .... the guy behind looks pleased .....

I tried to find a nice US picture ... all I found was news reports about President Roosevelt taking the gold off the people and giving them ... legal tender which was as good as gold. I found a story about President Nixon ending the gold exchange window at a later date. I guess that US Presidents like to keep their gold away from their people too, I'm impressed that their own congressmen can't even look at it. No idea why. It's a strange thing. Mind you - most people see a strange thing and move on. I see a strange thing and my trading experience has thought me to stop right there and look into it, because I have learned that unfixed "strange things" often seem to have a habit of being somehow involved when something goes wrong later.

I notice that the President of France took his gold out of the US, and Nixon didn't like that much. He closed that gold window a little after. So these people don't like giving it out all that much. Come to think of it, Germany didn't get theirs when they wanted it.

I looked up the price of gold in 1913, 100 years ago. It was $18.92. Today it costs $1328 in non-gold dollars. This clarifies a lot. Gold goes up in the long term. The conman says: Listen to what I say, don't look at what I do! But my father used to say it different to me. He said "Watch what I do and how I do it!" I guess my Dad was looking out for my best interests and giving me good advice.

These washer-coins and coloured paper legal tender money .... I accept them and pass them on as quick as I can to someone who values them, and I trade them for real stuff, just like those 16th century traders did. If a dollar went from 1333.23 to 18.92 against gold in 100 years, that's ....1.4% left, a decrease of 98.6% in it's value at buying real stuff.

If gold is good enough for Queen Elizabeth, and President Putin, and President Roosevelt, and they all give legal tender paper and washer-coins out and take gold in just like their ancestors did 400 years before them, then I think that should be good advice for me too. You have to study what the top people do, not what they say.

Best regards

Argentus Maximus

About the Author


sierra skier
Jul 27, 2013 - 11:31am


Oh boy, I finally did it. Thanks Turd for all you do, your blog keeps me up to date.

Edit in:

Very nice parable about the value of trade items compared to real money, gold and silver, which has been accepted for eons as a true store of value or wealth. Currently central banks and governments are accumulating gold and we should be as well.

sierra skier
Jul 27, 2013 - 11:40am

Is there a Power Outage?

I wonder if the power and internet is down everywhere but here at home. Claiming first was too easy this morning.

Jul 27, 2013 - 11:42am

3rd, and on a thread by a fav poster of mine

Great work, Argentus.

Love the story. Makes me consider how many estate liquidations struggle with all the artefacts that accummulate over a lifetime.

Jul 27, 2013 - 12:00pm

Change Washers into Silver

Thanks Argentus - Good article. It is amazing how the so-called leaders seem to like the real stuff, - yet, encourage the masses to have faith in the paper and steel slugs.

I like to take the bits of coloured paper and washers that I gather and trade them in for Gold and Silver coins. It amazes me how few of those washers it 'still' takes to get an ounce of Silver.

Jul 27, 2013 - 12:07pm


Great posts by guest contributors today, kudos all around. Inserted a pic of one our hives, the honey is to die for... been stung a few times, badges of honor... they reside next to the blueberries, which are rocking this summer. The peaches (Reliance do well in the Pacific Northwest) are also coming along nicely here by the shores of Lake Washington. For those considering gardens, but have yet to take the plunge, I highly recommend the effort... extremely fulfilling and rewarding, though somewhat costly at first. In my region I've had big success with the following:

Full sun ~ peaches, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, apples, pear, raspberries, broccoli, corn, beets, zucchini, cucumber, tomatoes, cilantro, snow peas, sugar snap peas, pole beans.

Partial sun ~ spinach, basil, all lettuces, onions, garlic, carrots, asparagus, cabbage

Try amending your soil with biochar... visit, it will extend the life of your soils

Jul 27, 2013 - 12:40pm

Pretty easy

The top ten has lost its lustre by too many new topics :).

Jul 27, 2013 - 12:42pm


This is a great post. I look forward to you continued future contributions on this site.

Any discussion anywhere about JPM ending its physical commodity business? This is a really big deal and perhaps deserves its own forum.

Could Bart Chilton have actually finished the CFTC silver manipulation investigation and came to an "agreement" to settle the manipulation by having JPM exit the market in physical? Of course this would not end the paper manipulation.

Maybe though, its part of a wider agreement for JPM to "quietly" leave the market without acknowledging that silver was manipulated. That way the price of silver doesn't surge higher (along with gold) and signal that our fiat currencies are becoming worthless compared to metal currencies.

Its a lot to ponder, but very important I think.

Jul 27, 2013 - 12:56pm

My initial understanding is

My initial understanding is that they are leaving base metals, and not bullion metals. Somebody will be able to elaborate on this.

The sale of the London Metal Exchange (LME) last year, and far eastern mine acquisitions might eventually come to be connected to JPM's decision to change metal trading strategy.

Jul 27, 2013 - 1:18pm

Cultural perception of value

Cultural perception of value is prone to degenerating into the appearance of wealth, versus true wealth.

When abundant lands were traded for scarce glass beads who could have foreseen a time when the value the finest Venetian glass beads are mostly ignored since cheaply produced beads are available by the bagful at a dollar store. Few people even care if beads are made of glass anymore, colorful translucent plastic is just fine.

Silverware became debased when electroplating could transform the appearance of a lesser value metal into something that appeared to have greater value. As the appreciation for the value of real silverware gradually faded, people eventually could not justify the additional cost of silverplate and substitution by any shiny white metal was fine.

Coinage debasement has served the Treasury well. We are in the second generation following replacement of 90% silver coins with cupronickel clad. Most now do not comprehend that there is a value difference between silver and cupronickel coins, since the appearance of wealth remains. The lack of understanding about silver as a precious metal usually accompanies an equal ignorance about gold.

If gold and silver are barbaric relics of accounting, why do governments to to such great lengths to give us the trappings of wealth in order to steal our wealth? Silver-colored and gold-colored coins circulate, and many people are truly not aware that there is no silver or gold in these coins but there remains a cultural affinity to these appearances. In reality, the value of these tokens differ little from multicolored Mardi Gras tokens. Technology exists to mint multicolored coins, but that would strip away the appearance of wealth.

Jul 27, 2013 - 1:30pm

A nice find

in my change from the Ace Hardware store this morning!

I'll take that over a washer anytime.

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Key Economic Events Week of 10/21

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