Cameroon's beer bottle currency

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Cameroon is one of the top-five markets for Guinness in the world, thanks in part to Africa's own James Bond, Michael Power. (Remind me to tell you about my appearance at red-carpet premiere of the Michael Power film, Critical Assignment.) Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that beer bottletops are now serving as currency in Cameroon:

"Taxi drivers are also using the caps in their fishy deals with the traffic police," adds [local journalist] Mr Etonge. "So they can get off by giving one or two caps to the officers."

The value comes from a sales-war between rival brewers, who are giving away prizes: the bottletops are the entitlements to those prizes. Being nit-picky I'd say that this doesn't actually qualify as a currency, unless the bottletops are circulating indefinitely without being cashed in. Looks more like barter to me.

It does suggest a gap in the market for stable currencies, though. IFC's Chief Economist, Michael Klein, once wrote a Financial Times comment piece about the rise of private money.

In a world of private money or currency competition the state would no longer be able to provide open-ended deposit insurance or liquidity support by printing money. Overall, the disciplines on financial institutions would come to resemble the ones seen under free-banking systems of the 18th and 19th century... They would advertise with hard numbers on their financial health and have an incentive to avoid moral hazards.

Until then, wherever currencies collapse, the US dollar is the replacement of choice.

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