The Absa Money Museum, located on Troye Street in the heart of Johannesburg and adjacent to some of the city’s biggest hotels, is home to the largest collection of currency used in South Africa’s history anywhere in the world. The only banking and money museum in the nation, the ABSA Money Museum, has a fascinating history of how changes in the economy, politics, and society can significantly alter a currency.
The Absa Money Museum’s archives reach all the way back to the early days of Johannesburg, and its collections span from rather primitive types of money, such as cowrie shells and Venetian glass beads, to gold coins found in sunken ships. The core of the museum’s exhibits is numismatics, the scientific study of money and its history. View the museum’s approximately 600 money boxes to learn about bank-related crime, how to use an ATM, and the value of saving money.
Of course, the Absa Money Museum goes into great detail on the banking behemoth’s past, allowing visitors to follow the growth of money in South Africa as well as the country’s financial history.
Even though we typically associate money with coins, banknotes, credit cards, and checks, historically, humans have traded using commodities like salt, seashells, metal, and even live animals. In essence, this kind of proto-money shared the same fundamental characteristics as money in use today: it was rare and difficult to counterfeit. Long before people learned to write, money had been used for 4500 years. And in Swaziland, for example, the practice of exchanging red ochre may be at least 100,000 years old.