Distinguishing characteristics of money commodities include:
- Commodity money consists of objects that have value in themselves as well as value in their use as money.
- It may be useful to think of this as an iterated effect of market exchange. Interest, for example, is classified by Marx as the "money of money". Here, Marx and Freud are arguably on the same page. That said, there is much discussion on zombies and being brainless in general because of what Freud calls the death drive.
- This concept opens up the dialectic of the two-fold bifurcation of money as a means of circulation on one hand and as a measure of value on the other.
Examples of commodities that have been used as mediums of exchange include gold, silver, copper, peppercorns, large stones (such as Rai stones), decorated belts, shells, alcohol, cigarettes, cannabis, candy, barley, laundry detergent, etc. Most recently, fiat currency and paper money takes up this role.
It is also here where the nature of surplus-value begins to be revealed.
"That which is for me through the medium of money – that for which I can pay (i.e., which money can buy) – that am I myself, the possessor of the money. The extent of the power of money is the extent of my power. Money’s properties are my – the possessor’s – properties and essential powers.
Thus, what I am and am capable of is by no means determined by my individuality. I am ugly, but I can buy for myself the most beautiful of women. Therefore I am not ugly, for the effect of ugliness – its deterrent power – is nullified by money. I, according to my individual characteristics, am lame, but money furnishes me with twenty-four feet. Therefore I am not lame. I am bad, dishonest, unscrupulous, stupid; but money is honoured, and hence its possessor. Money is the supreme good, therefore its possessor is good. Money, besides, saves me the trouble of being dishonest: I am therefore presumed honest.
I am brainless, but money is the real brain of all things and how then should its possessor be brainless? Besides, he can buy clever people for himself, and is he who has [In the manuscript: ‘is’. – Ed.] power over the clever not more clever than the clever? Do not I, who thanks to money am capable of all that the human heart longs for, possess all human capacities? Does not my money, therefore, transform all my incapacities into their contrary?" [Karl Marx, The Power of Money]