On This Page1997, No. 1997-12

A Model of Commodity Money, with Applications to Gresham's Law and the Debasement Puzzle
Last Updated: 08/29/97

The authors develop a model of commodity money and use it to analyze the following two questions motivated by issues in monetary history: What are the conditions under which Gresham's Law holds? And, what are the mechanics of a debasement (lowering the metallic content of coins)? The model contains light and heavy coins, imperfect information, and prices determined via bilateral bargaining. There are equilibria with neither, both, or only one type of coin in circulation. When both circulate, coins may trade by weight or by tale. They discuss the extent to which Gresham's Law holds in the various cases. Following a debasement, the quantity of reminting depends on the incentives oered by the sovereign. Equilibria exist with positive seigniorage and a mixture of old and new coins in circulation.