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Desmonde, W.H. (1953). On the Anal Origin of Money. Am. Imago, 10(4):375-378.

(1953). American Imago, 10(4):375-378

On the Anal Origin of Money

William H. Desmonde, Ph.D.

In his essay, “Character and Anal Erotism,” Freud pointed out the unconscious equation between money and excrement, and called attention to this phenomenon in primitive cultures. Ferenczi also predicted (1) that historical research would reveal a parallelism between the development of money in the growth of civilization and in individual maturational processes. This essay offers a contribution to Ferenczi's hypothesis.

The orthodox numismatic theory of the origin of coinage is that coins originated with the placing of the signet of the issuing agent upon a lump of metal, to guarantee its weight and its genuineness. Accrding to Macdonald,

“Originally, then, coins were simply pieces of sealed metal impressed with the emblem either of the issuing city or of the responsible magistrates. Whatever special influences may have come into play subsequently, types were at the outset no more than signets.” (2)

Barclay V. Head took a similar position on the origin of coinage:

“We may take it therefore as certain that the … type placed by authority on metal intended to circulate as money was simply the signet or guarantee of the issuer, a solemn affirmation on the part of an individual or of a State, that the coin was of just weight and good metal…” (3)

The custom of placing a seal upon property to safeguard the object and to guarantee its value was widespread long prior to the minting of coins, and the above theory presumes that coinage stemmed from this practice. According to Herodotus, money originated in Lydia in the seventh century, B.C. The same author relates, however, that, among the Babylonians, each man carried a signet.

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