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Author Topic: Comparison beween Cowry shells and Bitcoin  (Read 133 times)
AverageGlabella
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June 17, 2018, 07:37:17 PM
Merited by suchmoon (5), funsponge (5), Welsh (4), vapourminer (1), ETFbitcoin (1), paxmao (1), arnux (1)
 #1

As some of you may know Cowry shells were once used as a currency in different parts of the world as a commodity which was often traded for various different goods and in fact some places it was the main currency. I always see people comparing fiat currencies with Bitcoin and thought it would be fun to look at a little bit of history and compare it with Bitcoin which will hopefully continue making history.


First of all I'll go into a little detail of what Cowry shells are and how they can be obtained. Cowry shells are from a snail which is found all over the world in the ocean. They were particularly common just off the African coast but were found to be used all over the world. There's many different sub species of these snails but the "Cypraea Moneta" was the most commonly used within Africa.

For someone to collect these shells they would either have to luck upon them when they washed up on the shores or take matters into their own hands and dive into the ocean and retrieve the snails from the bed of the ocean. You compare this to mining if you like where the divers would have to invest their time and efforts through physical efforts and hopefully being rewarded with Cowry shells. Much like Mining requires computational power (time/effort) in order to be rewarded with Bitcoins. However with Bitcoin mining is actually contributing to the Bitcoin network by processing transactions which have been made.

In western Africa cowry shells were legal tender up until the 19th century and inland nations/communities valued it much more due to them not being able to collect the shells themselves as they are only located within the ocean floor.

African kings even required their citizens to pay their taxes with Cowry shells and some kings had in excess of 10,000,000  shells. Unfortunately there's no way to know what one shell would equal to Bitcoin to this day. Although this would be extremely interesting and if anyone finds out a way to do this please share. 

What is known is that multiple shells were attached via a string and represented a bigger value when combined. Much like our denominator found in Bitcoin. E.g if one shell was the equivalent of 0.1 BTC then 10 of these shells would make up a whole Bitcoin. So even with Cowry shells they combined several with a string to represent larger amounts.

It's interesting that these shells were used as an actual currency because much like Bitcoin they could not be counterfeited at the time. Modern technology could probably replicate the shells but I don't know how believable they would be. So you could argue that they were originally on the right track by using these shells. I wonder where it all went wrong to finally come to using the cash we see today which can be counterfeited and abused several other ways.

Ok so lets take a look at some of the advantages of Bitcoin over cowry shells. You should already be aware of these.

1. The amount of Bitcoins available will never change.
Unlike Cowry shells Bitcoins cannot be generated or in the case of Cowry shells be made through the reproduction of the snails that they are attached too. Which in theory should mean that they become more valuable the closer we get to the limit and will never be counterfeited or more generated which would cause the value to drop.

2. Bitcoin can be divided as small as you want
Unlike Cowry shells that are limited in size and although they were cut to shape back in the 18/19th century they do have a limited size. Even though currently Bitcoin can only be divided down into 8 decimal places in the future if it was needed this could be changed through consensus of the network. E.g Bitcoin is worth so much that 0.00000001 = $100. Therefore it would now be unwise to use Bitcoin for buying every day things like food etc.

3. Bitcoin can be sent instantly anywhere in the world
Again unlike Cowry shells which would of had to been transported to long distance destinations and the logistics and costs that this would take to do so Bitcoin can be sent instantly anywhere. Theoretically you don't have to wait for any confirmations. However it's a common practice to at least wait for 1 confirmation before transfering goods. However this doesn't take away from the fact that Bitcoin can be sent instantly and accepted at 0 confirmations if the receiver is happy to do so. 

4. Bitcoin isn't detrimental to itself
The way to obtain Cowry shells often results in the death of the snail which they are attached too whether this is through natural causes or prying the shell off the snail.

How you obtain Bitcoin is through mining which I have previously mentioned that this contributes to the network by processing and verifying transactions. Everything invested in Bitcoin is reinvested through different means. Processing the transactions through computational power and rewarding those who use their computational power with Bitcoin that as been included within a fee that the original transactions can optionally include.


I would love to hear your input on this and would invite any more comparisons that you guys have. Particularly unconventional currencies which were used in history. As you might of come to the conclusion I love everything about history.
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June 17, 2018, 08:49:49 PM
Merited by AverageGlabella (5)
 #2

According to wikipedia some kings would require their citizens to pay annually 1,000 shells for themselves and 1000 for every pack ox and another 2000 shells for every slave they owned and in one of the anicent tribes the king there had an estimated 30,000,000 shells.

It also states that 20 strings of 100 shells is equal to that of a dollar. Which is 0.0001539 at the time of posting this. I would not be rushing to convert all your saved cowries into Bitcoin Tongue
AverageGlabella
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June 17, 2018, 09:35:23 PM
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According to wikipedia some kings would require their citizens to pay annually 1,000 shells for themselves and 1000 for every pack ox and another 2000 shells for every slave they owned and in one of the anicent tribes the king there had an estimated 30,000,000 shells.

It also states that 20 strings of 100 shells is equal to that of a dollar. Which is 0.0001539 at the time of posting this. I would not be rushing to convert all your saved cowries into Bitcoin Tongue

The thing is with Wikipedia it can be edited by anyone and with my research I haven't found a reliable source which gives us a conversion rate to USD or any other fiat currency.

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June 25, 2018, 09:20:46 AM
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Amazon seems 10 cowrey shells for about $5, so that gives you a fiat conversion, btc is detrimental though.all those emissions are not good especially as most mining is from coal powered china
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June 26, 2018, 02:26:02 PM
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Interesting... 

People have to dive(work hard not stake cowries) for "newly minted" cowries = PoW
If  staking was a thing then the king would probably be the source of lots of printed cowries without working hard.
AverageGlabella
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June 27, 2018, 04:29:10 PM
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Interesting... 

People have to dive(work hard not stake cowries) for "newly minted" cowries = PoW
If  staking was a thing then the king would probably be the source of lots of printed cowries without working hard.

Exactly. I have made a new thread which I'm trying to work out a way of explaining PoW and linking into this example. I think that the point about diving demostrates the proof of work aspect that people can maybe relate too.

AverageGlabella
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August 30, 2018, 05:18:01 PM
 #7

Amazon seems 10 cowrey shells for about $5, so that gives you a fiat conversion, btc is detrimental though.all those emissions are not good especially as most mining is from coal powered china

Is that for one shell ? I haven't really researched the price of shell as it probably depends on the size etc.
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September 02, 2018, 01:13:56 PM
 #8

For ten.
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September 02, 2018, 03:19:18 PM
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Other countries used cattle. However, this proved to be a bit tricky, as the wallets tended to be rather large.
AverageGlabella
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September 16, 2018, 10:54:06 AM
 #10

Other countries used cattle. However, this proved to be a bit tricky, as the wallets tended to be rather large.

I would think that theres been other variations such as chicken too. I liked the idea of the cowry shells though
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