In the abundant literature dealing with the monetary valuation, or monetization, of ecosystem services (MES), with very few exceptions, the concept is presented as having emerged in 1997. In fact, there is a long history, starting in the late fifties but largely ignored, of sustained attempts to assign monetary values to nature's services. These early efforts encountered many conceptual and methodological roadblocks, which could not be resolved and led a number of researchers to argue that monetary valuation was not a fruitful approach. It is in that context that MES was hailed by some in 1997 as a promising way to integrate environmental goods and services into the logic of economic markets. Knowledge of the full timeline casts a very different light, in particular on the difficulties currently encountered in the practice of MES; far from being the expected growing pains of a young discipline, these difficulties turn out to be long-standing problems that have eluded solution over the last half-century and appear intrinsically unresolvable. This perspective suggests that, at this point, it is advisable to look at alternatives to MES for the integration of nature into economic decisions.