The way we think about money today is different from hundreds of years ago. Primarily during the Viking Age, a lot of interesting things happened. Ultimately, “traditional” money emerged as an alternative.
The Art of Trading
One major misconception surrounding the Viking Era is how everything revolved around pillaging and looting. Conquest certainly played a big role in this society. However, the Vikings were also incredibly skilled and successful traders across numerous regions. They even took trade as far as Greenland and Newfoundland. Some of their “offerings” might have even made it to the state of Maine.
By establishing multiple trading centers, the Vikings were in a prime position. These routes and centers bring in tremendous amounts of wealth and knowledge. Exotic goods range from silk to gems and even coins used in the Muslim world.
Trade routes extended as far as the Far East and Asia one one side. On the other part of the globe, Greenland, Iceland, and modern day Canada played a crucial role in the growing expansion of the Viking empire. All of Europe benefits from these trade routes. The Viking Age is an era of prosperity for all of Europe, allowing the continent to rebuild its economy.
The Bullion Economy
During the Viking Age, precious metals were the “standard” to determine value. As such, these conquerors and traders needed to use a system that would make sense across their trading centers and routes. The bullion economy was, and still is, an economic model that makes perfect sense.
Surprisingly, the Vikings were interested in silver primarily. Gold played its role too, albeit to a lesser extent. The weighted metals are used as a means of exchange. It is a keen example of how barter trading worked in those days.
Due to this flexible economic model, several key exchange rates were created. At one time, 8 ounces of silver would get a trader up to 24 sheep or 4 milk cows. With 12 ounces of silver, one could buy an adult male slave.
The Importance of Coins
Following the establishment of trade routes to the Islamic world, the Vikings were introduced to coinage. Most of the coins during the Viking Age came from the Islamic world. Primarily Arab currency was of great interest.
The influx of these coins was not one-sided either. Physical coins began to impact daily Viking life. They were, and still are, considered to be status symbols.
Eventually, the Vikings ended up minting their own coins. How many of those objects were minted throughout this period, remains unclear. Most of them seemed to serve as a political symbol or diplomatic gifts.