The Exchange : The origins of coinage

The origins of coinage

In order to find out when and where coins originated, one must look back to Lydia, an Ancient Greek kingdom in Asia Minor, during the seventh century BCE. It is not surprising that the Greeks invented coinage; they were also the creators of democracy, modern philosophy and many other things that influence our culture today. However, without their invention of coinage, our world today may have been very different.

The first coins were made of electrum. Electrum is a naturally-occurring metal alloy that contains both silver and gold. The coins made out of this substance had a varying color some were pale while others were bright yellow. The color depended on the ratio of silver to gold.

These electrum coin's designs were very consistent. They featured an animal, typically a lion, on the obverse and an incuse design on the other. Some of the coins have inscriptions on them - two of the most common being "Walwel" and "Kalil." It is unclear what these names mean; they could be kings, or possibly rich people who produced coins.


7th century Lydian Coin

The first time coins were made strictly out of gold or silver was in the sixth century BCE, under the reign of King Croesus. He also changed the design of the coin, so that on the obverse there was a lion fighting a boar. The reverse stayed the same.

Gold -Coin -of -Croesus -pic 

A coin of Croesus

The denominations of these Lydian coins, whether from King Croesus or not, were based off of a weight system. The largest coin, weighing about 14 grams, was worth one stater. There were also half staters, thirds, sixths, twelfths, 1/24, 1/48 and 1/96 staters. The smallest of these weighed about .15 grams. Since the size of some of these denominations were similar, coins were weighed rather than counted.


Some denominations of Croesus' coins

Without the Ancient Greek's invention of coinage, our world would be different. Without a monetary system, we would have no way to pay for things. Instead, we would likely barter with items of similar value. That would be a hard way to live.


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Written by Will Schrepferman at 00:00
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