Monday, May 30, 2011

(empo-tymshft) Hey Mister Tally Man, Tally Me...Goat

Bruce Schneier links to a translated story about a tally stick, dated 1558, that was discovered in Wittenberg, Germany.

So what is a tally stick? explains how they originated:

King Henry the First produced sticks of polished wood, with notches cut along one edge to signify the denominations. The stick was then split full length so each piece still had a record of the notches.

The King kept one half for proof against counterfeiting, and then spent the other half into the market place where it would continue to circulate as money.

Because only Tally Sticks were accepted by Henry for payment of taxes, there was a built in demand for them, which gave people confidence to accept these as money.

These originated around 1100, and lasted for several centuries. So how did tally sticks disappear?

The tally stick system worked really well for 726 years. It was the most successful form of currency in recent history and the British Empire was actually built under the Tally Stick system, but how is it that most of us are not aware of its existence?

Perhaps the fact that in 1694 the Bank of England at its formation attacked the Tally Stick System gives us a clue as to why most of us have never heard of them. They realised it was money outside the power of the money changers, (the very thing King Henry had intended).

It's interesting that the recent tally stick find was at Wittenberg, because one very famous resident of Wittenberg was extremely familiar with a story about moneychangers.

To read additional information about the Bank of England, the demise of the tally stick system, and the modern day implications of this, go here. Or here.
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