i In the travel accounts of the Venetian traveller Marco Polo the reader becomes familiar with the fascinating world of paper money production. This money has been put into circulation during the Yuan period by the Mongol chief Kublai Khan (1214-1294) : “It is in the city of Khanbalik that the Great Khan possesses his Mint. (…) In fact, paper money is made there from the sapwood of the mulberry tree, whose leaves feed the silk worm. The sapwood, between the bark and the heart, is extracted, ground and then mixed with glue and compressed into sheets similar to cotton paper sheets, but completely black. (…) The method of issue is very formal, as if the substance were pure gold or silver. On each sheet which is to become a note, specially appointed officials write their name and affix their seal. When this work has been done in accordance with the rules, the chief impregnates his seal with pigment and affixes his vermillion mark at the top of the sheet. That makes the note authentic. This paper currency is circulated in every part of the Great Khan’s dominions, nor dares any person, at the peril of his life, refuse to accept it in payment.”Marco Polo was amused at the thought that whereas the alchemists had struggled vainly for centuries to turn base metals into gold, the Chinese emperors had very simply turned paper into money. Once back home, Marco Polo amply reported about his experiences and adventures in the Chinese Empire but when he talked about paper money he only met disbelief. It is hardly surprising that it took a few more centuries before paper money was introduced in Europe. In fact, if we keep to the concept of paper money as notes issued with a monetary reserve as a warranty, the first Chinese notes date from the 10th century. Which means a headstart of no less than seven centuries on the West!