You can soon pay for your shopping by taking a selfie

Business Insider

Our parents and grandparents used to tell us that cash is king, but have you ever wondered what the world was like before money was even invented?

These days, many people don’t even bother carrying any cash in their wallets. Instead, they always make sure they are armed with credit cards and smartphones which help to get rid of the hassle of waiting for change and keeping heavy coins.

But centuries before digital payments were even a possible thought, our ancestors in Southeast Asia were doing trade with all sorts of valuables such as gold, seashells and animal-shaped ingots.

Mastercard’s new digital timeline tells the story of how money evolved throughout Southeast Asian history.

Here are 5 surprising facts we learned from the timeline:

1) Singapore inspired Thai king to get rid of cowrie seashells which date back to pre-history


In the 1300s, cowrie shells were used by people in Northern Thailand to pay their fines. Found around the world, the ‘bia’ is believed by some to be the first universal currency, dating back to pre-history.

King Rama III, who ruled Siam from 1824 to 1851, attempted to replace cowrie shells with coins as he was concerned that the creatures living inside the shells were harmed.

He had learned of the use of flat copper coins in Singapore and contacted a Scottish trader in 1835 to mint coins for his own nation.

2) Tin animals were used as currency in Malaysia 


Perak animal money was used as currency in Malaysia some time during the 1400s. The animals look cute, but the origin of such currency was molded by local folklore and magic.

Tin ingots were melted into the shape of animals and insects such as turtles (kura-kura) crocodiles (buaya), fish (ikan) and grasshoppers (belalang), and it was their weight that determined their value.

Used symbolically in place of animal sacrifices, Perak’s animal money was thought by locals to hold supernatural powers.

3) Singapore’s first coins were made in India

Singapore’s first coins were made of copper and silver, in denominations of 1/3-cents and 1/30th of a dollar respectively.

Minted by the Calcutta Mint, the coinage failed to mature as they were discontinued due to their poor quality.

In 1826, money from the Calcutta Mint was replaced by the Indian silver rupee, which the British decided to use as the country’s legal currency when Singapore became part of the Straits Settlements.

4)  The Malaysian ringgit and Singapore dollar were equal in value


In 1965, after 29 years of currency union with Malaysia, Singapore gained independence and issued its own currency.

To maintain some degree of currency cooperation, the Malaysian Ringgit and the Singapore Dollar were interchangeable at par value.

Singapore issued notes featuring the motif of an orchid hybrid, which symbolises progress and multiculturalism in the country.

5) You can soon pay for your groceries by taking a selfie

Jessica Lin/Business Insider

Credit cards and mobile phone payments may be the norm now, but they will soon have to make way for biometric, contactless and wearable payments.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and virtual currencies are now at the forefront of finance, while blockchain services are increasingly being used to simplify traditional banking methods. Bank-tellers of the future could be highly-intuitive robots which can answer your questions quicker and more accurately than ever before.

Wearable tech of the future such as rings and fitness trackers will also be turned into payment devices, so that you can make payments with a light tap of your hand.

In the future, payments can be made even more secure with new biometric tools such as selfie identification.

At the rate we’re going, perhaps wallets will even become obsolete in the next generation.