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The End of Money: Counterfeiters, Preachers, Techies, Dreamers--and the Coming Cashless Society

3.36  ·  Rating Details ·  498 Ratings  ·  79 Reviews

For ages, money has meant little metal disks and rectangular slips of paper. Yet the usefulness of physical money—to say nothing of its value—is coming under fire as never before. Intrigued by the distinct possibility that cash will soon disappear, author and Wired contributing editor David Wolman sets out to investigate the future of money…and how it will affect

Hardcover, 240 pages
Published February 14th 2012 by Da Capo Press (first published January 1st 2012)
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Mar 06, 2012 Tom rated it it was ok
As shop-worn as the trope is, I wish that The End of Money had a question mark at the end of its title, at least in spirit. In fact, the title belies one of the central difficulties of the project Wolman endorses: what the book is about is the end of cash, as in physical bills and coins, not the end of money, as in a medium of exchange. That the topics are confused in the book's title speaks to how deeply entrenched cash is in societies throughout the world, and the intense difficulty of dislodg ...more
Nicholas Moryl
Jan 22, 2013 Nicholas Moryl rated it did not like it
There's no real thesis, there are factual errors, there's a lot of hearsay, and Wolman chooses to focus primarily on tabloid-level characters rather than serious thinkers. There's nothing really insightful here about the future of money. On the plus side, it's modestly entertaining from time to time, but if you want insight into money, economics, or payments, it's pretty shallow.
Mar 25, 2012 Eva rated it really liked it
A good book, though not a must-read. Favorite quotes:

In the uneconomically titled chapter of [Marco] Polo’s travelogue, “How the Great Kaan [Kublai Khan] causeth the bark of trees, made into something like paper, to pass for money all over his country,” he described the bizarre arrangement, this slight of hand that somehow wasn’t. Yet the explorer knew full well that for his readers back in Europe, the explanation would likely fall short. “For, tell it how I might, you never would be satisfied t
Mark Hartzer
Aug 11, 2015 Mark Hartzer rated it liked it
I was prepared to hate this book. I'm a very firm believer in the value of cash, as opposed to 'money'. As JP Morgan once said, 'Gold is money. Everything else is credit.' There's a reason gold and silver have been in use for thousands of years. The Chinese word Yuan derives from the term, 'lump of silver'. Whether it be private banks or governments, the temptation to print or otherwise debase the currency appears inevitable.

Anyway, Wolman (an editor for Wired magazine), attempts to avoid using
Christopher Dixon
Good book on the future of money. Alternative currencies, especially ones of a digital variety, are coming en masse, and they'll probably be great. Even more so, they will be extremely accessible and beneficial to people all over the world, especially the poor, as Wulman convincingly argues. And possibly most consequential of all, the reign of national sovereign currencies, with the corruption, seigniorage, and devaluation that inevitably accompanies them, may at last come to an end.
Steve Newman
Jan 07, 2014 Steve Newman rated it liked it
A quick and easy read, for "money" talk it had some humor and lots of interesting, and primarily useless, facts about the purpose, history, and use of money.

It was interesting, at least for me, for Mr. Wolman to explore the potential impacts of moving to an all digital currency (such as Bitcoins, or others). From distribution and use benefits to the poor, to privacy and anonymity for all, a future cash-less society has many benefits but just as many pitfalls for broad and wide usage.

It was also
Apr 22, 2013 Michelle rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
Somewhere there is an informative and accessible book about the end of paper money and coins, but it is not this book. The author is glib and doesn't seriously take into account any criticism of non-physical forms of money. He has a belief and idea in mind and goes on and on about it. He has a bit of stunt non-fiction (he goes without using money but rarely mentions this experiment), a travelogue (he visits Icelend, London, and Hawaii), and a bit of history.

The biggest problem is that he also i
Boris Limpopo
Jun 24, 2012 Boris Limpopo rated it really liked it
Wolman, David (2012). The End of Money: Counterfeiters, Preachers, Techies, Dreamers – and the Coming Cashless Society. Boston: Da Capo Press. 2012. ISBN 9780306819469. Pagine 240. 12,83 €

Una delle prime cose da dire su questo libro, è che il titolo è un po’ fuorviante. Non si dovrebbe chiamare The End of Money, ma The End of Cash – Non La fine del denaro, ma La fine del contante: questo è quello che l’autore ha fatto (con successo quasi totale) per un anno intero, e questo è il tema che svilupp
Jonathan Lu
Jul 31, 2013 Jonathan Lu rated it it was amazing
Outstanding book about the future of hard currency, very well written and laden with dryly humorous remarks that keeps it entertaining and all the while wholly educational. Prior to picking up this book, I was very much a supporter of eliminating hard currency as a means of financial exchange tender for reasons of efficiency and reducing corruption/criminality. Wolman has now convinced me of another 7 or 8 reasons as to why this is a good idea. Of course the big question is the how� replace with ...more
Oct 24, 2014 Rhnair rated it really liked it
Let me begin by an amazing coincidence. Just as I finished the book today (Oct 25, 14), I read this news item in a leading Indian newspaper “Sweden goes cashless: A news report shows that four out of every five purchases in Sweden are paoid for electronically or by card.. The local reports that Swedes are using electronic payment 260 times per person per year. Electronic payments as Swish are bypassing the ATM for cash. While going cash free comes with an increase in security cost, its more than ...more
Brett Matthews
May 01, 2015 Brett Matthews rated it did not like it
David Wolman's book is definitely not worth reading. The first problem is painfully basic: he is not arguing for the end of money at all, just the end of paper money (that is,cash), via a transformation into digital money. Money has been with us for many thousands of years, at least since the emergence of tokens in Mesopotamia. Paper money is a relative newcomer in the story of how humans have stored and exchanged value -- a product of the rise of mass literacy triggered by Gutenberg.

Even his a
Oct 13, 2014 Loren rated it it was ok
Shelves: economics
Pretty simple. You must be some sort of religious wacko fringe nutjob (or a criminal) if you think a cashless society is the end of freedom. Sadly so few have a firm grasp of the entirety of human history that they don't even realize that our way of life today, this military industrial complex, is a very new thing and his argument holds no water. The majority of human history was spent as hunters/gatherers where all monetary systems were irrelevant. This becomes new information to readers along ...more
Nov 13, 2015 Crystal marked it as i-ll-finish-it-one-day
the book should really be titled "the end of cash", not money. david wolman makes a very compelling case for the world without physical cash. he's not advocating for a bartering system, he understands the need to standardize costs. and he's not advocating for a plastic system, either. well, not totally plastic, anyway.

you know when you go out to eat with a large group of friends, and the bill comes, and you realize you don't have cash? you know those phone apps that allow you to send money from
Apr 22, 2013 Nancy rated it liked it
I found this book well-written and amusing but the main thesis is not new to me. I did learn a few things for example, I did not know that it was illegal to destroy national currency:

...burning banknotes would violate the section of Title 18 of the U.S. Code prohibiting “mutilation of national bank obligations.” You may be able to marshal a free-speech defense...

I've also never considered the opinion from the opposing camp, in favor of alternative currencies, that alternative money can potenti
Mar 25, 2013 Maureen rated it really liked it
In my continuing quest to read more non-ficiton, I am finding that the more I read it, the more I want more. Hmmm. This one is more of an extended personal essay written by a guy with political leanings that veer left. He takes the interesting idea of going without cash for an entire year, and then picks a couple of points to investigate more deeply. As someone who uses that debit card for smaller and smaller purchases, and who thinks it looks cool to point the phone to share information, I can ...more
John Jose
Feb 11, 2017 John Jose rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book has all the problems of a book that tries to focus on one thing, but deviates too much. It's informative but writer's attempt to make it interesting by adding quirky little details has failed miserably. Still a good book to know some facts about cash. Especially to someone who is wondering what would be the result of demonetization in India.
Jul 11, 2012 Scott rated it liked it
Wolman does a great job of presenting in detail all of the numerous pitfalls and problems surrounding cash, but does little, if anything, to offer any viable alternatives or solutions. True, cash in and of itself is worthless, but it is the guarantee of the government that it does have worth, and our faith in that promise that gives it any value... Admittedly, Wolman has some other valid and compelling arguments against cash. Cash is certainly costly to produce and distribute, as well as prone t ...more
May 29, 2012 John rated it really liked it
Is cash over? David Wolman would clearly like it to be for hygiene reasons if nothing else. The much remarked mis-title coveres a meditation on the history of both money and cash and the possibility that cash is coming to an end as a useful technology. That, it turns out, is only a tiny part of it. From those who believe abandoning paper money is a sin to those who see it as only fit for criminal activities the meanings people place on cash are diverse to put it mildly. It is clear that cash is ...more
Alisha Mcfarland
Aug 16, 2013 Alisha Mcfarland rated it liked it
I liked the wide and balanced approach he took in arranging the chapters - especially starting with what I perceived to be an extreme religious idea that the changes in our relationship with money is the work of the Devil - hadn't thought of that one before. Despite my initial confusion and concern that this book might not be what I thought, Mr. Wolman provides a unique combination and description of the different people and factors that shaped and are shaping our relationship with physical mone ...more
Jan 27, 2013 Pris rated it it was amazing
Liked the book. Having worked in banking for almost 20 years, I understand the costs of physically manufacturing cash vs. electronic financial transactions. Making coins and paper money isn't worth the actual value they're assigned, especially coins. Furthermore, the effect of cash on the poor enslaves them to it, while those who have money least use cash. However, not everyone is on board with the idea of a cashless society, even though the actual cash in circulation of any country in the world ...more
Feb 04, 2012 Gábor rated it liked it
Shelves: market
Mr. Wolman tries (and fails) to not use physical currency for a whole year. In the process he does a whirlwind tour, visiting people in Georgia (USA) who see electronic currency as sign of evil, people in Reykjavík (who suddenly do not want to repay money borrowed), looks into how and by whom money is being counterfeit (including the North Korean regime) and how governments defend against encroaching their own territory of minting money (see the Liberty Dollar saga), financing of narco and terro ...more
Maria E
Aug 30, 2013 Maria E rated it liked it
Shelves: business, audiobooks
Working in the financial sector, this book title grabbed me and then the concept and writing style kept me. I can't agree with everything Wolman says, he's right, I do like to have anonymity in some transactions and I occasionally think about how dirty and germy money is, but I don't have his aversion to touching it.

I knew that merchants were charged for electronic transactions and I knew they were picking it up somewhere, it just never occured to me that it would be in the cash prices for thin
This book was pretty instructive... This listener learned about alot of different issues/subjects re: $$$$$$/cold, hard cash...& other alternative forms of money. Issues surrounding foreign countries, counterfeiting, the International Monetary System & the global economy, debt, the actual moneymaking process, 'dirty' money (as in germs!), & the future of money (& its forms.) There really was alot to take in, & I must admit that I might learn alot more by listening to it a 2nd ...more
Richard Thompson
Feb 21, 2013 Richard Thompson rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
No matter how many books I read about money, in the end, it all looks like voodoo, religion, smoke and mirrors...

This book doesn't make it make sense, but it presents some interesting ideas about the role of cash money in the scheme of things. Mostly, the author thinks that cash money is a bad idea and that the time is coming when most of our financial transactions will be handled electronically. Cash money costs a lot to create, transport, count, store. Cash money is much more useful to crimina
Feb 27, 2013 Ariadna73 rated it liked it
Shelves: economy
Here is my comment in my Spanish Blog:
Well; I thought that this book was about the concept of money as a vehicle to development and freedom but also to doom and slavery; but I found a little essay on how cash is filthy and how we should eradicate it altogether. This author is very entertaining; and takes you to different places in the world where you can see how people live without cash. However; I was looking for some deeper analysis on the whole concept
Iván Braga
Apr 20, 2014 Iván Braga rated it liked it
El tema del libro, la progresiva desaparición del dinero físico y su reemplazo por dinero digital,es interesante y claramente muy vigente. El autor aborda la problemática del dinero físico y sus inconvenientes, mostrando a través de distintos casos y experiencias, la migración que estamos viviendo hacia un dinero electrónico. El libro también recoge las barreras para que este proceso avance con mayor rapidez y los costos que implica el seguir usando el dinero físico, sobre todo para los más pobr ...more
Jan 17, 2013 Peggie rated it really liked it
I never realized how much society depends on money - now. The author tried to go a year without using cash - and it almost worked. Even though he predicts that someday all transactions could be done with your phone, it hasn't happened yet.

He told me some things I already knew (98% of money is contaminated with heroine) and some things I didn't (most large currency bills are used almost exclusively for money laundering or the drug trade).

Phone banking has made it possible for Indians in remote
Dec 13, 2012 Simon rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
This book talks about how this fast changing world is moving to a cashless society. Wolman brings up some interesting points M-Pesa in Kenya, mobile banking, mobile apps, Paypal, and etc, but yet he wasn't convincing enough on how we are moving to a cashless society. Even with new technology and the convenience it brings, there are still a lot of poverty areas which relies only on cash. Even though there are more people using technology for paying and receiving money, we still have long ways to ...more
Jordan Buckley
Feb 26, 2014 Jordan Buckley rated it really liked it
Jaunty, engaging, readable overview by a journalist exploring what cash is, where it came from, its strengths and weaknesses, how it is used around the world by governments and people, and various ideas about its future.

The author admits that he looks forward to a cashless future, but I was hoping for a little more on what that might look like (NFC payments, cryptocurrency like Bitcoin/Litecoin, etc.). Instead, the book was more focused on cash and its demise than what will come after. Still ov
If you are interested in the history, and future, of money - specifically cash - this is a book you should read. A good intro to national currencies, how money works in the international realm. Also some ideas from folks that many will think are, to use a word, crackpots. Do away with cash? What, are you nuts?

As much as I like the casual narrative style of the book, this is one case where I think I would have really enjoyed a bit more rigorous, if not quite academic, approach to help me better
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David Wolman is a contributing editor at WIRED and MATTER, and the author, most recently, of Firsthand: A Decade of Reportage.

He has also written for such publications as the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, Time, Nature, and Outside. His long-form feature about Egypt’s 2011 uprising was a finalist for a 2012 National Magazine Award for reporting, and his profile of a curr
More about David Wolman...

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