Currency is valuable because people say it is. A diamond is special because you can’t find it easily. People can understand why something like that has value.
Paper currency is just paper, nothing more, yet it’s commonly used around the world, but one island east of the Philippines stands out among other places. Yap Island hides among the Caroline Islands of the Federated States of Micronesia, and it’s one of the most interesting places, not only for its culture but because you’ll find large stone disks throughout the island.
You won’t think much about these large disks, but these disks are currency on the island. Of course, no one else around the world will see these stones as currency, so the island uses the U.S. dollar to trade or purchase items outside the island.
Still, within the island, these stones are valuable. The people here call these stones Rai stones. They are hard to make since people have to carve the disks out of regular limestone. The stones vary in size, but it’s not uncommon for a stone to weigh up to seven tons.
Each disk has a value that’s determined in several ways. For example, the size of the stone plays a part but so does its production and how it’s transported.
One of the most interesting things about this stone currency is that its value could go up if someone dies as the disk is being transported. As mentioned before, they are quite large and weigh a lot. Accidents could happen, and if they do, the value of the disk increases to honor the person.
People use these discs to purchase land throughout the island or for other large transactions. The value of each stone is recorded through oral history in the small community. There aren’t many discs in the community, so oral history works just fine.
There was a point in their history when shells and whale teeth were currency, but they let those go. Now, the villagers use the discs and the US dollar whenever they need to deal with the outside world.
The discs are the largest type of currency in the world. When people find out about it, they want to see it in person. You can find discs outside an owner’s home or property, usually resting on a fence or a wall for all to see. In a sense, leaving the stone currency out shows appreciation for all the hard work that was put into making it and transporting it.
As mentioned earlier, the little island works with the outside world, but they do so using the US dollar. Of course, no one sees their stones as valuable, but what is valuable is the resources of the island. The tourist economy is where they get most of their US dollars. The people on the island offer scuba diving and lessons. The people also allow tourists to swim manta rays that can be found in the surrounding waters.
People also visit the island to see the stone currency and to watch people celebrate their heritage for Yap Day, which happens once a year on the island. The celebration includes food, native dancing, Yapese traditional clothes, and much more. You should know that the weather is mostly warm and pleasant. This is another reason many people love to visit.
All of these attractions are part of the reason many people come to visit the island, which helps the people earn U.S. dollars through tourism. The dollar isn’t valued the same way though; it’s just paper that other people around the world seem to value and nothing else to the people on this island.