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A currency is a unit of money (or monetary unit). Typically, each country has given monopoly to a single currency, controlled by a state owned central bank, although exceptions from this rule exist. Several countries can use the same name, each for their own currency (e.g. Canadian dollars and US dollars), several countries can use the same currency (e.g. the Euro), or a country can declare the currency of another country to be legal tender (e.g. Panama has declared US currency to be legal tender).

Each currency typically has one fraction currency, valued at 1/100 of the main currency: 100 cents = 1 dollar, 100 centimes = 1 franc. However, some currencies use a fraction of 1/10 (and a very few some other value such as 1/5 or 1/20), or do not have a minor unit currency at all. These fractions are NOT listed below.

Table of contents


The history of currencies follows the history of money closely. Although any form of representational money can be considered currency, the term is typically applied to standardized coinage, and the systems that developed from it.

Prior to the introduction of standard coinage, calculating the value of a metal-based money required several steps. First the metal was tested on a touchstone to calculate the quality, then it was weighed, and then the two values were multiplied. Thus if someone alloyed gold and lead (which was a common cheating process) the metal's weight was multiplied by the percentage of gold to get the weight of the gold alone.

Coinage was introduced to simplify this process. Coins were created of a set weight and gold quality, and then stamped to prove their worth. No measurement was needed, as long as the original values were known. Of course one could use an alloy with the same stamp as the coin to cheat, but the stamps were complex and thus difficult to duplicate (at the time).

More modern currency systems developed from the introduction of coins. The process started with the replacement of the original metal, with a coin representing it. The gold itself was kept safe in government vaults. Examples of this system in the past was the gold standard, where the US Dollar was backed with gold stored at Fort Knox, and the British Pound Sterling, which was backed by one pound of sterling silver at it's inception in 1158 in the hands of King Henry II.

The evolution continued, first to paper representations of the same standard, and finally to removing the metal altogether - the paper itself is considered to be valuable.

In order to prevent forged currency, various technologies such as watermarks are inserted into most paper currencies. In the early 21st century, the use of RFID tags has been proposed to track bank notes which were illegally obtained. Such efforts have been criticized by privacy advocates.

Modern Currencies

To find out which currency is used in a particular country, start at the countries of the world or look at the table of historical exchange rates.

Nowadays ISO have introduced a system, ISO 4217 using three-letter codes to define currency, in order to remove the confusion that there are dozens of currencies called the Dollar and many called the Franc. Even the Pound is used in nearly a dozen different countries, all of course, with wildly differing values. In general the three-letter code uses the ISO 3166-1 country code for the first two letters, and the first letter of the name of the currency (D for dollar for instance) as the third letter.

Currency names Currency names of the world in alphabetic order by currency name:

Currency symbols The currency symbols are made obsoleted by ISO 4217.

  • ¤ - Generic currency sign
  • $ - dollar sign
  • ¢ - cent sign
  • ₥ - Mill Sign - Usa (1/10 cent)
  • £ - pound sign
  • ¥ - yen sign - Japan
  • ৲ - rupee mark - Bengal
  • ৳ - rupee sign - Bengal
  • ฿ - Baht sign - Thailand
  • ៛ - Riel sign - Khmer
  • ₠ - Euro-Currency Sign - intended for ECU, but not widely used. Historical character, this is NOT the euro!
  • € - Euro Sign - Currency sign for the European Monetary Union
  • ₡ - Colon Sign Costa Rica, El Salvador
  • ₢ - Cruzeiro Sign - Brazil
  • ₣ - French Franc Sign - France
  • ₤ - Lira Sign - Italy, Turkey
  • ₦ - Naira Sign - Nigeria
  • ₧ - Peseta Sign - Spain
  • ₨ - Rupee Sign - India
  • ₩ - Won Sign - Korea
  • ₪ - New Sheqel Sign - Israel
  • ₫ - Dong Sign - Vietnam
  • ₭ - Kip Sign - Laos
  • ₮ - Tugrik Sign - Mongolia (also transliterated as tugrug, tugric, tugrog, togrog)
  • ₯ - Drachma Sign - Greece

See also

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