- The earliest coins are estimated to have been invented around 610–560 BCE² in Sardis, Lydia, a kingdom tied to ancient Greece and located in modern-day Turkey³.
- The Lydians used electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver with trace amounts of copper and other metals, to facilitate trade. However, the gold content of alluvial electrum varied greatly. To counter this problem, the Lydians turned bullion electrum into coins.
- Coinage was invented precisely because of the varying intrinsic value of electrum³.
- The coins were minted by being struck with 2 coining dies – a lower die depicting the coin in a negative form, and a similar upper die. The coin blank was then placed between these two dies and the upper die struck with a heavy hammer, thus rendering a positive image on the blank.
- Below is a diagram illustrating the process:
[ux_image_box img=”632″ image_width=”50″ link=”https://www.fleur-de-coin.com/articles/ancient-minting” target=”_blank”]
- Although irregular in size and shape, these early electrum coins were minted according to a strict weight-standard. The denominations ranged from one stater (weighing about 14.1 grams) down through half-staters, thirds, sixths, twelfths, 1/24ths and 1/48ths to 1/96th stater (about 0.15gm).
- Below is a photograph of a Lydian electrum coin denominated as 1/3 stater:
[ux_image_box img=”636″ link=”https://www.cngcoins.com/Coin.aspx?CoinID=57383″ target=”_blank”]