Money is usually defined as something that is a medium of exchange, a measure of value, and a store of value.
For example, I sell you something in return for “money” which I can then immediately buy something from someone else. Or, we can use “money” to set a value for something you have. Or, I can sell something now, store the value in “money” and then buy something of equal value later.
In Iceland during the Viking Age there was not enough silver to use it as “money.” So, other things, especially homewoven cloth was used as substitute.
In Viking Age Iceland, Jesse Byock gives a good explanation of how cloth was used as a measure of value and medium of exchange.
First silver coins flowing into Scandinavia were Arabic dirhems. Later pennies from England and the continent were a bigger portion of the coins. Even later, various kings in Scandinavia minted their own coins.
A large horde dated to 1010 A.D. or earlier contains three coins with an inscription of “ONLAF REX NOR”, which the article translates as “Olav King of the Norwegians.” Article points out it is unknown whether this is Olav Tryggvason or Olav Haraldsson.
The author makes a wild guess on the amount of silver carried out of the Carolingian Empire and away from England.
Based upon written accounts in the 9th century he estimates between 40,000 and 45,000 pounds of silver was extracted from the Carolingian empire as Danegeld payments.
He says most historians would estimate this was between 1/2 and 1/3 of the total silver hauled off. That means there would have been somewhere in the range of 80,000 or 90,000 pounds up to 120,000 or 135,000 pounds in addition. I will smooth that estimate out to somewhere between 80,000 and 125,000 pounds.
Over in England, king Ethelred paid out an estimated 180,000 pounds of silver.
What was the price of a Viking sword at the time? How about expressing a price then in some unit of measure we can grasp today? I have looked on the ol’ net but haven’t found any good guesses. Previous post discussed one indicator that I couldn’t process.
Hurstwic website describes one sword that had a reported value. Chapter 13 of Laxdæla saga says a sword given to Höskuldur by King Hákon was worth a half mark of gold.
Charlemagne became king of the Franks in 768 A.D. and expanded his rule until he died in 814, according to Wikipedia. That puts the price in the timeframe of late 700s or very early 800s. This is in contrast to the Lex Rubuaia having first been written in around 630.
I tried to convert that 7 solidi into something we can relate to.
Short overview of the evolution of the means of exchange during Viking Era can be found in Viking Currency, an article by Dani Trynoski at Medievalists.net.
A basic economic concept to remember: part of the definition of money is a means of exchange and store of value. A silver armband, brooch, or coin can be both a store of value and means of exchange. Standard size silver coins are easier to work with on both criteria than jewelry.
A few pounds of silver is far easier to carry and use to buy stuff later than several dozen (?) furs, a dozen or two cows, or a few shiploads of grain.