Establishment of a money system
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Before the arrival of the Dutch in Guyana, the Amerindians survived on subsistence farming, hunting and fishing. From time to time they used a barter system by which they exchanged goods with each other. For example, one person might give half a deer to his neighbor in exchange for a basket of sweet potatoes.
But actually, the Amerindians did not barter much among themselves since they farmed, hunted and fished in communal groups, and they shared the produce among themselves.
Later, the Dutch colonists and traders bartered European goods such as knives, cutlasses, and cloth for indigo and dye-woods which were collected by the Amerindians.
Money was introduced by the Dutch colonists, but there was never much in circulation. Actually, for large business transactions, they rarely used money. It was normal for them to write promissory notes which eventually would be redeemed from their agents in Amsterdam where they sent their sugar and other produce to be sold.
The Dutch colonists introduced the guilder and other coins such as pennings, stivers and bitts whose values fluctuated over time. Side by side with these coins from other European nations circulated. These included the English guinea, the Mexican dollar, and the Portuguese gold ducat, moidore, and joe. By the end of the eighteenth century a type of paper money issued by the Government or the banks in Europe began appearing in Guyana. Usually, when a person had accumulated a quantity of paper money, he would exchange the notes for gold at the Receiver's Office for Colonial Taxes. This Office would then re-issue the paper money to the general public again.
When the British seized over Guyana in 1803, English coins began to make a gradual appearance. But the Dutch coins continued to be the main means of commercial exchange throughout the rest of the century, by which time the Portuguese and Mexican coins could hardly be found in circulation.
Many slaves saved coins that they acquired by doing odd jobs during their free time, or through the sale of the produce from their provision grounds. Interestingly, the first bank to be established was a savings bank for the slaves in 1828. This occurred at a time when the British Government was implementing policies aimed at improving the social condition of the slave population in its colonies.
In 1836, two other banks, the Colonial Bank and the British Guiana Bank, were set up. The former, many years later, was taken over by Barclays Bank, while the latter, during the second decade of the twentieth century, was absorbed by the Royal Bank of Canada.
In 1900, the Dutch coins were withdrawn and were replaced by British coins such as the half penny, penny, sixpence, twelve pence, shilling, florin, half crown, crown, sovereign and guinea. Official British paper money was also introduced into Guyana at this time. This system of currency remained until 1951 when Guyana joined with the British Eastern Caribbean territories to use common Eastern Caribbean coins and currency notes, even though many of the British coins continued to circulate for a while. Guyana, on attaining independence in 1966, withdrew from the Eastern Caribbean currency board and began to issue its own coins (one cent, five cents, ten cents, twenty-five cents, fifty cents) and currency notes with values of one dollar, five dollars, ten dollars and twenty dollars