The Long (and Surprising) History of Money Clips


The money clip is an optional fashion accessory for the male wearer. It keeps paper money sorted and prevents it from being rumpled-looking in the pants pocket. There is a modicum of style attached to the use of this kind of clip. After all, if you are going out for a night on the town, it would not do to pay club cover charges with badly folded and crumpled up dollar bills. It is far more impressive to pull out a wad of neatly folded cash and hand the doorman the right change in the blink of an eye.
It is fair to say that the history of the money clip is directly tied to the history of non-coin currency. Invented during China’s Han Dynasty in 118 BCE, original lightweight bank notes were made of leather. China was also instrumental in developing banknotes during the Tang dynasty in the seventh century. Europeans did not take a liking to paper money until the 13th century. The banknote stuck around and has become more popular than coins, which are more difficult to carry due to their weight. Modern paper money is made from cotton paper that is mixed with some textile and metallic fibers.
That said, an early precursor to the money clip is the drafts organizer of ancient Mesopotamia. Although it would be accurate to say that this clip is more closely related in function to a paper clip, it does factor into the money clip’s history by virtue of the items it secured. Back in 323 BCE, a clip would be used to hold notes detailing the storage of grain. The clips prevented loss of papers and helped with the easy distribution of the notes. A similar clip was used in Japan until about 300 CE for notes detailing rice storage.
When money clips were used in connection with European paper currency, these devices were initially used to clip bills to the owner’s clothing. This protected somewhat against pickpockets who would make off with loose wads of cash. Materials used included leather and bone. American money clips came into fashion right around the 1900s. Reserved for the wealthy, these clips were made of precious metals like gold or silver.
Modern money clips are a fashion accessory for the man who values a debonair appearance and loves to display flawless social graces. Modern clips may be made of copper, gold, silver and also platinum. Some feature personalized engravings. Marketers of high-ticket items have caught on to this fashion trend and have begun to use money clips as a means of advertising a store’s logo or brand name. The use of these clips is for the practically-minded user but not for the bona fide dandy who keeps a close eye on his personal appearance. 
Peter Suchy Jewelers is located at 1137 High Ridge Road in Stamford Connecticut and we invite you to stop by our showroom.
We also offer a variety of money clips and men’s jewelry in our eBay store.
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