Essential Reading

Cowries to Crypto

The history of money, currency and wealth

Money really does make the world go round. But what is it? A piece of paper in your pocket? A number on your bank statement? Or a message sent from your mobile phone?

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About the book

A playful romp through world history, Cowries to Crypto provides an entertaining account of the creation of money, from the earliest forms of barter to the introduction of coins, paper notes and digital currencies. Beautifully narrated through a series of witty illustrations, this extraordinary book tells the tale of how money came to be.

What to expect

  • As COVID-19 accelerates us towards a cashless society and fintech transforms banking, this book examines what the evolution of money can teach us about its future
  • A whistle-stop tour through the amazing innovations that helped create and transform world civilisations, from the earliest riverine cultures of the Middle East and China to the trading desks powering banks in London and New York
  • Revealing insights into the interplay between money and society at key moments, from the birth of Greece and Islam to the fall of Rome, the Italian Renaissance and the discovery of the New World

Meet the creators

Jame DiBisio - Cowries to Crypto


Jame DiBiasio

An award-winning financial journalist, Jame DiBiasio is the founder and editor of DigFin Group, a media brand dedicated to digital finance, fintech and digital assets. He is also the author of several books including Who Killed the King of Bagan? and The Story of Angkor. He has also served as a reporter, editor, and media director at Institutional Investor News, AsianInvestor and Haymarket Finance Media. Jame has been based in Hong Kong since 1997.

Harry Harrison Illustrator - Cowries to Crypto


Harry Harrison

Based in Hong Kong, Harry Harrison is a freelance cartoonist perhaps best known for his daily political satire in the South China Morning Post. However, his work has also appeared internationally in publications such as IFR, The Guardian, Time Magazine, The Wall Street Journal Asia and the Far Eastern Economic Review, occasionally picking up awards along the way. He is a proud member of the UK’s Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation.

From cavemen to fintech whizzes – an illustrated journey

When DID money grow on trees? What do whale’s teeth have to do with money? Did women invent maths? Mesopotamia v Lehman Brothers – what’s the worst financial crisis in history? What can the Ancient Greeks teach us about budgeting? Will the yuan overtake the dollar’s dominance?

Cowries to Crypto is packed with amazing facts, fascinating tales and financial wisdom, sharing everything we need to know about the history of money to understand its future. Taking us back in time to the most important moments in the evolution of money, the book reveals how it shaped civilisations, discoveries and battles.

The book begins with our ancestors bartering salt for spears, before transporting us to the caves counting was invented in, exploring why the Pharaohs never cottoned on to exchanging gold and how the Chinese invented coins, before the Ancient Greeks astonished the world by what they did with them.

It examines why, from The Age of Discovery onwards, world power would increasingly be based on credit, how the Dutch invented the stock market and became the first capitalist society, celebrates the birth of the Bank of England, dabbles in the world’s greatest financial crises, charts the rise to dominance of the dollar and explores how now, in the age of cryptocurrency, the value of different currencies has come to be based on mathematics and open-source code rather than faith in governments.

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The story behind the book

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Take a look inside

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What people are saying

“[The book] looks stupendous!”

Michael Stumm
Founder of OANDA Professor of Computer Engineering, University of Toronto

“The book is very special in several aspects: it is written by a gifted writer and reads like poetry; the scope is international, i.e. not Eurocentric. That is in contrast to almost all other such books and gives a unique global view. The cartoons are very well done and give the reader time to digest the contents. The paper and the binding are very special too. I'm proud that OANDA has produced this book. All in all, a tremendous contribution.”

Jürg Conzett
Founder of the MoneyMuseum in Zurich
Former OANDA shareholder and member of the board

Press enquiries

For press or publicity enquiries please contact Melinda Earsdon at or +65 9109 4944

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