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Commodity money inflation: theory and evidence from France in 1350-1436


  • Sussman, Nathan
  • Zeira, Joseph


This paper presents a theory of inflation in commodity money and supports it by evidence from inflationary episodes in France during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The paper shows that commodity money can be inflated similarly to fiat money through repeated debasements, which act like devaluations. Furthermore, as with fiat money, demand for commodity money falls with inflation. Unlike fiat money, at high rates of inflation demand for commodity money becomes insensitive to inflation, since commodity money has intrinsic value in addition to its transactions value. Finally, we show that an anticipated stabilization reduces demand for commodity money, which is opposite to the effect of anticipated standard stabilization on demand for fiat money.
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  • Sussman, Nathan & Zeira, Joseph, 2003. "Commodity money inflation: theory and evidence from France in 1350-1436," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(8), pages 1769-1793, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:moneco:v:50:y:2003:i:8:p:1769-1793

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Motomura, Akira, 1994. "The Best and Worst of Currencies: Seigniorage and Currency Policy in Spain, 1597–1650," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(01), pages 104-127, March.
    2. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 1996. "Foundations of International Macroeconomics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262150476, July.
    3. Li, Yiting, 1995. "Commodity money under private information," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 573-592, December.
    4. Pamuk, Şevket, 1997. "In the Absence of Domestic Currency: Debased European Coinage in the Seventeenth–Century Ottoman Empire," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 57(02), pages 345-366, June.
    5. Bruce D. Smith & Thomas J. Sargent, 1997. "Coinage, debasements, and Gresham's laws," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 10(2), pages 197-226.
    6. François R. Velde & Warren E. Weber & Randall Wright, 1999. "A Model of Commodity Money, with Applications to Gresham's Law and the Debasement Puzzle," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 2(1), pages 291-323, January.
    7. Gandal, Neil & Sussman, Nathan, 1997. "Asymmetric Information and Commodity Money: Tickling the Tolerance in Medieval France," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 29(4), pages 440-457, November.
    8. Arthur J. Rolnick & Francois R. Velde & Warren E. Weber, 1997. "The debasement puzzle: an essay on medieval monetary history," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Fall, pages 8-20.
    9. Kindleberger, Charles P., 1991. "The Economic Crisis of 1619 to 1623," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(01), pages 149-175, March.
    10. Sussman, Nathan, 1993. "Debasements, Royal Revenues, and Inflation in France During the Hundred Years' War, 1415–1422," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 53(01), pages 44-70, March.
    11. Beatrix Paal, 2000. "Destabilizing effects of a successful stabilization: a forward-looking explanation of the second Hungarian hyperinflation," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 15(3), pages 599-630.
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    Cited by:

    1. Stephen F. Quinn & William Roberds, 2005. "The big problem of large bills: the Bank of Amsterdam and the origins of central banking," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2005-16, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
    2. Volckart, Oliver, 2008. "‘The big problem of the petty coins’, and how it could be solved in the late Middle Ages," Economic History Working Papers 22310, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    3. John H. Munro, 2009. "Coinage and Monetary Policies in Burgundian Flanders during the late-medieval 'Bullion Famines',. 1384 - 1482," Working Papers tecipa-361, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
    4. Michael Graff, 2008. "The Quantity Theory of Money in Historical Perspective," KOF Working papers 08-196, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.
    5. Oliver Volckart, 2007. "Rules, Discretion or Reputation? Monetary Policies and the Efficiency of Financial Markets in Germany, 14th to 16th Centuries," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2007-007, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
    6. Stephen F. Quinn & William Roberds, 2006. "An economic explanation of the early Bank of Amsterdam, debasement, bills of exchange, and the emergence of the first central bank," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2006-13, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

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