Who invented the wallet: A brief history

The history of wallets dates back to old times. Back then, wallets were different than what they are today. Today wallets are slim and minimalist. While in the ancient era, they were big and heavy.

Being a vintage wallet fanatic, I love exploring high-quality wallets from the past. Researching has also helped me dig out the history and the invention of wallets. Below is a brief history of the wallets.

Who invented the wallet: A brief history. The word 'wallet' has 14th century French, German and Roman origins. Proofs of the oldest wallet revive back to five and a half thousand years. These were drawstring leather pouches tied to waist belts.

Until the 16th century, wallets were used to carry coin money, food, handy weapons, and treasure. In the 17th century, paper money came to the West, and flat case wallets were born. They carried cash and calling cards. The use and popularity of wallets kept advancing during the 1800s.

At the beginning of the 1900s, a company named 'Hermes' started designing fashionable leather wallets. That was the time when the wallet industry boomed. By the 1920s wallet was an integral personal belonging to display fashion, wealth, and a staple accessory to function throughout the day.

The bi-fold wallets were introduced in the 1950s with the invention of credit cards. As the technology flourished, the wallets also reduced in size and shape. The future might lead to full-on e-wallets.

Wallets are such a necessity and a fashion trend that one wonders:


  • Who invented the wallet?
  • When and where was the wallet invented?
  • Why didn't people carry their money and cards in their pockets?
  • How did the wallets replace coinpurse?
The history of wallets is quite interesting. Please keep reading to know how people rolled with their wallets in different years.

Origin of the Word 'Wallet'

    • It isn't quite clear where the word 'wallet' came from. But the word 'wallet' certainly originated in the late 14th century. The most authentic shreds of evidence point to French, Dutch, or German origin, referring to wallets as "backpacks."
    • From the ancient Greek culture, the word "Kibisis" is translated to wallet. However, the flat case wallets that we refer to now were introduced in 1834 by English.
    • In ancient Greek culture, wallets were 'store bags' for edibles to survive on journeys.

World's Oldest Wallet Mankind Know

In 1991, a naturally preserved body was discovered on the Alpes of Italy. It is known as "Otzi, the iceman." According to archeologists, clues from the items revealed that this mummy was 5300 years old.

A bast-made purse was discovered from Otzi, the iceman. Which was declared to be from the 3100-3400 BC period.

This five-and-a-half thousand-year-old wallet (purse) was tied to a utility belt. This wallet contained a flint dagger and a copper axehead, but no money!

Ancient Greece

The era of ancient Greece is known to be between 700-480 B.C. The godly personalities of this period referred to their wallets as "kibisis."

A wallet in this period was considered associated with the less privileged.

Greeks used drawstring coin purses to carry coin money, food, and handy weapons. These leather or fabric purses were tied to the waist belts, hidden in the toga, or hanged in the necks.

Renaissance (The 14th Century Revival)

Before the 14th century, drawstring leather pouches were used by people to carry coins as money. When paper currency began printed in the 1600s (16th century) in the West and Europe, the true wallets originated.

These flat case wallets were made of horse or cattle leather and included a small ID card and calling cards compartment.

For almost two centuries, folks (a fashion trend that the rich didn't follow much as the middle class) carried their wallets attached to their waist/utility belts. It was deemed inelegant to keep the wallet inside the pocket. This was because that was the era to show off wealth.

However, the usage and popularity of wallets kept advancing during the 1800s, especially by gentlemen.

Through the 19th Century

    • In the 19th century, the wallet had multiple functions, from carrying cash to carrying food items like dried meat.
    • A Large number of Americans also started using wallets.
    • The British folks still used coin purses because their wages were in coins rather than notes. A coin purse was more functional for them. In fact, 75% of the British population had never seen paper money at that time!
    • In the same era, Spanish wallets were used by the citizens to carry smoking gizmo.

The Dawn of the 1900s

At the beginning of the 1900s, a company named 'Hermes' started designing fashionable leather goods. They also crafted wallets from the same leather used to create the saddle. That was the time when the wallet industry boomed.

Wallets during the World War II

Like all industries, the war effects struck the wallet industry. Fashion slowed during World War II (1939 – 1945), but soldiers still had wallets. In addition, wartime wallets held pictures of loved ones, dog tags, ID cards, and other small articles like matches.

The history of wallets in the 1950s

The decade 1950s brought a lot to the history of wallets in terms of both design and materials.
The 1950s is considered to be the peak of “fashion wallets.”

The wallets that we use now are mostly bi-fold. This is because they were presented in the same decade of the 1950s with the invention of credit cards.

Although the wallet was originally designed to carry around cash, they are used to carry credit cards in modern times.

E-wallets and the Future

Cryptocurrency wallets:
Cryptocurrency wallets are now the most recent wallets that keep digital currencies safe inside computer systems.

Medical health wallets:
In addition, we now also have medical health wallets that keep the data of our medical health secure inside the electronic devices.

Electronic wallets on our smartphones have reduced the number of cards we carry, leading to the growing popularity of slim and minimalist wallets.

Wireless technology:
Due to wireless technology, wallets seem to decrease in size daily. As a result, the need to carry paper currency is dropping.


The conclusion from the history of the wallets:

Despite all the transformation, a leather wallet is still people's priority, fashion, and need!

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published