The invention of coinage is generally attributed to the Lydians during the early 7th century BC. They were wealthy and powerful people. Their coins were stamped and had a guaranteed weight. They were made from electrum, which was a mix of gold and silver. They were the size and shape of a bean and were known as ‘staters’ or ‘standards’. The first to issue gold and silver coins was Croesus of Lydia in the 6th century.
The idea of using coins soon spread to the Greeks who began to use them from the 6th century B.C. the Bulgarians also began to use coins around the same time. By the 5th century, all the Mediterranean countries were making use of coins. Gold coins were the most valuable, followed by silver and finally copper.
Greek coinage lasted for about 500 years. The Romans picked up the idea of coinage from the. Slowly the system of coinage declined after 500 years. The coins slowly looked thin and unattractive. The Celtic and German tribes, who had close contact with the Greeks and Romans, also began the coinage system by the 2nd century BC. At first they copied the Greek coins but later changed them to abstract shapes from heads, horses and chariots.
The Chinese at first used cowrie shells as coins. Later they shaped bronze coins in the same of the cowrie shells, knives and hoes. The proper coins were issued in 212 BC by the first emperor of the Qin dynasty.
By the 15th century the art of coinage was revived as metal became more plentiful. Skilled artists engraved the coins. The first British coins were struck before the arrival of the Romans to Britain.
Coins are made by punching a piece of metal with the design of a coin on it. The Chinese cast their coins in moulds. The coins are made in a ‘mint’. Coins usually have pictures and some writing on them. They also have a milled edge. This was originally used on gold and silver coins to avoid fraudulent ‘clipping’ of the edges of the precious-metal coins. The tradition is still continued to this day.
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