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Commerce is a division of trade or production which deals with the exchange of goods and services from producer to final consumer. It comprises the trading of something of economic value such as goods, services, information, or money between two or more entities. Commerce functions as the central mechanism which drives capitalism and certain other economic systems (but compare command economy, for example). Commercialization or commercialisation consists of the process of transforming something into a product, service or activity which one may then use in commerce. Commerce involves trade and aids to trade which help in the exchange of goods and services.
''Commerce'' primarily expresses the fairly abstract notions of buying and selling, whereas ''trade'' may refer to the exchange of a specific class of goods ("the sugar trade", for example), or to a specific act of exchange (as in "a trade on the stock-exchange").
''Business'' can refer to an organization set up for the purpose of engaging in manufacturing or exchange, as well as serving as a loose synonym of the abstract collective "commerce and industry".
Some commentators trace the origins of commerce to the very start of communication in prehistoric times. Apart from traditional self-sufficiency, trading became a principal facility of prehistoric people, who bartered what they had for goods and services from each other. Historian Peter Watson dates the history of long-distance commerce from circa 150,000 years ago.
In historic times, the introduction of currency as a standardized money facilitated a wider exchange of goods and services. Numismatists have collections of these monies, which include coins from some Ancient World large-scale societies, although initial usage involved unmarked lumps of precious metal.
The circulation of a standardized currency provides the major advantage to commerce of overcoming the "double coincidence of wants" necessary for barter trades to occur. For example, if a man who makes pots for a living needs a new house, he may wish to hire someone to build it for him. But he cannot make an equivalent number of pots to equal this service done for him, because even if the builder could build the house, the builder might not want the pots. Currency solved this problem by allowing a society as a whole to assign values and thus to collect goods and services effectively and to store them for later use, or to split them among several providers.
commerce includes a complex system of companies that try to maximize their profits by offering products and services to the market (which consists both of individuals and other companies) at the lowest production-cost. There exists a system of International trade, which some argue has gone too far.