1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cash

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CASH. (1) (From O. Fr. casse, mod. caisse, a box or chest; cf. “case”), a term which, originally meaning a box in which money is kept, is now commonly applied to ready money or coin. In commercial and banking usage “cash” is sometimes confined to specie; it is also, in opposition to bills, drafts or securities, applied to bank-notes. Hence “to cash” means to convert cheques and other negotiable instruments into coin. In book-keeping, in such expressions as “petty cash,” “cash-book,” and the like, it has the same significance, and so also in “cash-payment” or ready-money payment as opposed to “credit,” however the payment may be made, by coin, notes or cheque.

The “cash on delivery” or “collect on delivery” system, known as C.O.D., is one whereby a tradesman can, through a delivery agency, send goods to a customer, and have the money due to him collected on the delivery of the same, with a guarantee from the carrier that, if no money be collected, the goods shall be returned. The function of such an agency is performed in the United States of America by the express companies (see Express). In most countries of the continent of Europe the post office acts as such an agent, as in Germany (where the system is known as Post-Nachnahme) and in France (contre remboursement). It is also in use in India, where it is known as “value payable,” and was introduced in 1877 in Australia. The advantages of the system are obvious, from the point of view both of the customer, who can, by post or telegram, order and obtain speedy delivery from large towns, and of the tradesman, whose area of trade is indefinitely extended. The system does away with credit or the delay and inconvenience of paying in advance. The success of the large “catalogue” houses in America has been mainly due to the system as operated by the express companies. At various times, notably in 1904, it has been proposed that the General Post Office of the United Kingdom should adopt the system. The consistent opposition of the retail traders in large urban centres other than the large stores, and of the country shopkeeper generally, has been sufficient to secure the refusal of the postmaster-general to the proposed scheme, but a commencement was made in 1908 for orders not exceeding £20 between the United Kingdom and Egypt, Cyprus and Malta, and certain British post offices in Turkey and Tangier.

(2) (From Tamil kasū, Sinhalese kasi, a small coin, adopted by Portuguese as caixa, a box, and similarly assimilated in English to “cash” above), a name given by English residents in the East to native coins of small value, and particularly to the copper coinage of China, the native name for which is tsien. This, the only coin minted by the government, should bear a fixed ratio of 1000 cash to one tael of silver, but in practice there is no such fixed value. It is the universal medium of exchange throughout China for all retail transactions. The tsien is a round disk of copper alloy, with a square hole punched through the centre for stringing. A “string of cash” amounts to 500 or 1000 cash, strung in divisions of 50 or 100.