4. Urban Life
The history of coins extends from ancient times to the present, and is related to economic history, the history of minting technologies, the history shown by the images on coins, and the history of coin collecting. Coins are still widely used for monetary and other purposes.
All western histories of coins begin with their invention at some time slightly before or after 700 B.C. in Aegina Island, or according to others in Ephesus, Lydia, 650 B.C. Since that time, coins have been the most universal embodiment of money. These first coins were made of electrum, a naturally occurring pale yellow mixture of gold and silver that was further alloyed with silver and copper.
Also, the Persian coins were very famous in the Persian and Sassanids era. Most notably, in Susa and in Ctesiphon.
Some of the most famous and widely collected coins of antiquity are Roman coins and Greek coins.
The Byzantine Empire minted many coins (see Byzantine currency), including very thin gold coins bearing the image of the Christian cross and various Byzantine emperors.
A tomb of the Shang Dynasty dating back to the 11th century B.C. shows what may be the first cast copper money Tong Bei. Coinage was in widespread use by the Warring States Period and the Han Dynasty.
Some of the earliest coins were beaten at the edges to imitate the shape of a cow, in indication of their value. Most coins are circular but some were rectangular. Also a lot of coins, especially in China had a hole through the center so they could be tied on to a string.
Some of the earliest coins to be made purely from silver and gold were the silver Dirham and gold Dinar in the early Islamic Caliphate from the 7th century.
Silver and gold coins are the most common and universally recognized throughout history, even today. Mints around the world still make millions of gold and silver coins, such as the Canadian Silver Maple Leaf, the American Gold Eagle, and the Australian Nugget. Copper, nickel, and other metals are also common, but in lower denominations.
There are multiple theories on the origin of coins. One theory argues that coins originated ca. 600-550 BC in Anatolia, which corresponds to modern-day Turkey, in particular in the Anatolian kingdom of Lydia. Opponents of the Lydia scenario point to the fact that coins of that era have been totally absent from archeological finds in Sardis, capital of Lydia. A coin, by definition, is an object used to facilitate commerce and exchanges.
King Kroisos period. Circa 561-546 BC. Image Source: Wikipedia
Another possible candidate for first metal coins come from China. The earliest known Chinese metal tokens were made ca. 900 BC, discovered in a tomb near Anyang. These were replicas in bronze of earlier Chinese money, cowry shells, so they were named Bronze Shell. Some numismatists, however, regard these as well as later Chinese bronzes that were replicas of knives, spades, and hoes as money but not as coins because they did not at least initially carry a mark or marks certifying them to be of a definite exchange value.
Along with Anatolia and China, India also played a major part in the development of coinage. The first Indian coins were minted around the 6th century BC by the Mahajanapadas of the Indo-Gangetic Plain.
Throughout history, governments have been known to create more coinage than their supply of precious metals would allow. By replacing some fraction of a coin’s precious metal content with a base metal (often copper or nickel), the intrinsic value of each individual coin was reduced (thereby “debasing” their money), allowing the coining authority to produce more coins than would otherwise be possible. Debasement sometimes occurs in order to make the coin harder and therefore less likely to be worn down as quickly. Debasement of money almost always leads to price inflation unless price controls are also instituted by the governing authority, in which case a black market will often arise.
Modern Gold Coin. 1 oz American Golden Eagle.
To continue reading, please click on the next page
(Ancient Timekeeping- Water Supplies, Sewage and Plumbing):