The evolution of commerce over the last 150,000 years, from its early roots in bartering and gifting economies up to today, has followed a fairly predictable path when plotted on a logarithmic scale. Despite all of the changes, one thing has been constant - our desire to make transactions as easy as possible.
A Brief Timeline of Commerce
~150,000 years ago - Bartering and gifting are the main forms of commerce.
~14,000 years ago - Raw materials for stone-age tools, like obsidian, are used as a form of money.
~11,000 years ago - Cattle and grain are commonly used as forms of money, leading to expressions such as "a grain of gold."
~5,000 years ago - In Mesopotamia, Shekels represent specific weights of barley, silver, bronze, and copper.
~3,200 years ago - Shell money is used in China and in communities around the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
~3,000 years ago - Babylonians create a bill of exchange, formalizing the earlier practice of loaning among merchants.
~2,700 years ago - The first government manufactured coins appear in several areas such as India, China, and around the Aegean Sea.
~1,500 years ago - Chinese merchants begin to use paper-receipt IOUs, another early form of credit and a precursor to paper money.
~1,000 years ago - The Song Dynasty introduces paper money.
~700 years ago - The merchants of Venice begin trading securities from other governments.
484 years ago - The world's first stock exchange appears in Antwerp.
~415 years ago - To fund exploration and trade, the Dutch, British, and French East India Trading Co's become the first LLCs, selling stocks that guarantee dividends.
~355 years ago - European banks begin issuing banknotes.
242 years ago - The first stock exchange in London opens.
198 years ago - The New York Stock and Exchange Board is formed.
~100 years ago - Oil companies and department stores issue the first credit cards for customers to use at their stores.
69 years ago - Charg-It, the first bank card, is issued by a Brooklyn bank.
49 years ago - The first general-purpose, credit card system is established by Bank of America.
44 years ago - The NASDAQ, the world's first electronic stock market, opens.
36 years ago - Michael Aldrich invents online shopping.
18 years ago - Mobile commerce is born when Coca Cola creates a vending machine that can receive mobile payments.
6 years ago - Bitcoin version 0.1 is released.
Today - Virtual and augmented reality begin the next revolution in commerce.