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Commodity Money Inflation: Theory and Evidence from France in 1350-1436

  • Sussman, Nathan

    (Hebrew U of Jerusalem)

  • Zeira, Joseph

    (Hebrew U of Jerusalem, Harvard U, and CEPR)

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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Paper provided by Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government in its series Working Paper Series with number rwp02-008.

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Date of creation: Feb 2002
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp02-008
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  1. Francois R. Velde & Warren E. Weber & Randall Wright, 1997. "A model of commodity money, with applications to Gresham's law and the debasement puzzle," Staff Report 215, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  2. 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.
  3. Li, Yiting, 1995. "Commodity money under private information," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 573-592, December.
  4. 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.
  5. Bruce D. Smith & Thomas J. Sargent, 1997. "Coinage, debasements, and Gresham's laws," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 197-226.
  6. Rolnick, Arthur J. & Velde, François R. & Weber, Warren E., 1996. "The Debasement Puzzle: An Essay on Medieval Monetary History," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 56(04), pages 789-808, December.
  7. 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.
  8. Beatrix Paal, 2000. "Destabilizing effects of a successful stabilization: a forward-looking explanation of the second Hungarian hyperinflation," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 15(3), pages 599-630.
  9. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 1996. "Foundations of International Macroeconomics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262150476, June.
  10. 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 440-57, November.
  11. 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.
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