Front Page Titles (by Subject) 7. Cognizability. - Money and the Mechanism of Exchange
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7. Cognizability. - William Stanley Jevons, Money and the Mechanism of Exchange 
Money and the Mechanism of Exchange (New York: D. Appleton and Co. 1876).
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By this name we may denote the capability of a substance for being easily recognized and distinguished from all other substances. As a medium of exchange, money has to be continually handed about, and it will occasion great trouble if every person receiving currency has to scrutinize, weigh, and test it. If it requires any skill to discriminate good money from bad, poor ignorant people are sure to be imposed upon. Hence the medium of exchange should have certain distinct marks which nobody can mistake. Precious stones, even if in other respects good as money, could not be so used, because only a skilled lapidary can surely distinguish between true and imitation gems.
Under cognizability we may properly include what has been aptly called impressibility, namely, the capability of a substance to receive such an impression, seal, or design, as shall establish its character as current money of certain value. We might more simply say, that the material of money should be coinable, so that a portion, being once issued according to proper regulations with the impress of the state, may be known to all as good and legal currency, equal in weight, size, and value to all similarly marked currency. We shall afterwards consider more minutely what is involved in the manufacture of a good coin.
The Metals as Money
It need not be pointed out in detail that, though the numerous commodities mentioned in Chapter IV. possess, in a greater or less degree, the qualities essential to the material of money, they cannot for a moment compare in this respect with many of the metal. Some of the metals seem to be marked out by nature as most fit of all substances for employment as money, at least when acting as a medium of exchange and a store of value. Accordingly, we find that gold, silver, copper, tin, lead, and iron have been more or less extensively in circulation in all historical ages. So closely have silver and copper become associated in people's minds with their use as money, that we find their names adopted as the names of money. In Greek, means equally silver, silver coin, and money generally; in Latin, aes is copper, bronze, or brass, and also money and wages; in French, argent is both silver and money. The same association of meanings could be pointed out in many other languages, including our own. Though our pence are now of bronze we still speak of them as coppers.
With the exception of iron, the principal metals are peculiarly indestructible, and undergo little or no deterioration when hoarded up or handed about. Each kind of metal is approximately homogeneous, piece differing from piece in nothing but weight, the differences of fineness being ascertained and allowed for in the case of gold and silver. The metals are also perfectly divisible, either by the chisel or the crucible, and yet a second melting will always reunite the pieces again with little cost or loss of material. Almost of them possess the properties of cognizability and impressibility in the highest degree. Each metal has its characteristic colour, density, and hardness, so that it is easy for a person with very slight experience to distinguish one metal from another. Their malleability enables us to roll, cut, and hammer them into any required form, and to impress a permanent design by means of dies. With the exception of porcelain coins, which have been used in Siam, I am not aware that coins have ever been made of any substance except metal.
In respect to steadiness of value the metals are probably less satisfactory, regarded as a standard of value, than many other commodities, such as corn. From the earliest ages metals must have been most highly valued, as we may learn from the way in which they are esteemed by savages in the present day. But their value has suffered and is suffering an almost continuous decline, owing to the progress of industry, and the discovery of new mechanical and chemical means for their extraction. Even the order of their values becomes changed. According to Mr. Gladstone, iron was, in the Homeric age, much more valued than chalkos, or copper, which latter was then the most common and useful metal. Lead was little known or valued, but gold, silver, and tin held the same place at the head of the list which they hold at the present, day.