Show me the money

At the shops. It’s Saturday lunchtime. In my arms are jeans, a hoodie and a pair of clogs (it could happen!). After the eternal wait to get to the counter I hand over my card, type in my pin number and am on my way home.

The odd thing about the above scenario is not the fact I might buy a pair of clogs, but no actual money was exchanged. Throughout history money or services have always been exchanged for other goods or services. Before the invention of coinage, bartering was the most common way of doing this. In some cultures, little cowry shells were used as a form of currency.

It is only recently that we use a piece of plastic to pay for things and Blackburn Museum has some examples of early credit cards.

Variations of credit cards have existed since the 1920’s but only worked on a small scale. It wasn’t until the late 1950’s that the first ‘modern’ credit cards sprung up in America. ‘Diners Club’ was the first major credit card and this image shows an early British version.

The first British credit card was introduced in 1967 by Barclays and the sample below was sent to customers and stores to show what the new card would look like. 

Credit cards became very popular in a short space of time and boomed during the economic highs of the 1980’s. Modern day credit cards can come with a variety of designs and use ‘chip and pin’. When you look at the old credit cards though, you realise they haven’t really changed at all.


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Blackburn Museum can be found in Blackburn, Lancashire. It houses objects documenting Blackburn's industrial past as well as a world class collection of Fine Art, Japanese prints, Icons, Numismatics and Manuscripts. Come and visit us to find out more.

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