To study the evolution of currency for his book 'Coined', Kabir Sehgal followed Charles Darwin’s lead and headed down to the Galapagos Islands. 'While I was in the Galapagos I studied different ecosystems and, sure enough, all the organisms I found there and even here in New York, they all use exchange, meaning energy,' said Sehgal. 'There are always energy transfers.' Sehgal traveled to 25 countries in all to capture the history of money for 'Coined'. And while he discovered the genetic roots of money in the Galapagos, it was in China where he learned about the introduction of soft, or paper, money. According to Sehgal, China invented paper money probably around the 9th century AD, but the idea really took off in the 13th century when Kublai Khan and the Mongols came to power. In their quest to rule the world, the Mongols circulated paper money initially backed by silver and silk. Over time, however, they became over-reliant on it, eventually leading to their ruin. 'They printed too much of it and they started to cut that link between money and metal,' said Khan. 'There is a currency crisis, a monetary crisis, a financial crisis. Eventually that part of the Mongolian empire collapsed. There are lessons in that for us today.' As for the modern day paper money debate here in the U.S. to replace Alexander Hamilton’s portrait on the $10 bill, Sehgal said he supports the decision of United States Treasurer Rosa Rios to have the man who served as the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury to be pushed aside to make room for the likenesses of Rosa Parks or Grace Hopper.
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