It is common knowledge that Cacao bean, which is used to make chocolate, was once used as currency by the Maya and Aztecs. It was said that 10 beans could purchase a rabbit and 100 beans were needed to purchase a slave. It was used for all sorts of daily exchanges and continued to be used as late as the 19th century. But what does that mean in terms of what we consider “real” money today? How much is Cacao worth now?

               In 1555, it was decreed that one Spanish real was equal to 140 Cacao beans. Four reales later became a peseta, which is currently what the exchange rate puts up against the dollar. Just as you could once buy a lot for a quarter, a real was a good sum of money- especially in the 1500’s.

               As with many forms of currency, Cacao had trouble with people who would try to forge the beans out of clay or wood, passing them off as the genuine article. It was also not uncommon for forgers to take real beans and hollow them out (taking the delicious cacao inside) and filling the shell back up with mud, so it had the proper weight!

               Cacao is still used today as currency, in a way. It is bought and sold as a commodity, on the commodity market and is considered a very important commodity. The current price for Cacao on the Commodity Market is around $3,000.00 per metric tonne, which is how it is sold. With quantities like that, it brings new meaning to “go big or go home”!

               Could you imagine using Cacao as money? What about chocolate bars? It would be so tempting to eat the money instead of spend it!


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