History of coins

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Greek drachma of Aegina. Obverse: Land turtle / Reverse: ΑΙΓ(INA) and dolphin. The oldest turtle coin dates 700 BC

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 BC. in Aegina Island,[1] or according to others in Ephesus, Lydia, 650 BC.[2] Ancient India in circa 6th century BC, was one of the earliest issuers of coins in the world.[3]

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 Chinese Shang Dynasty dating back to the 11th century BC 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.

Minting technologies[edit]

Main article: History of mints

Coins were first made of scraps of metal. Ancient coins were produced through a process of hitting a hammer positioned over an anvil. The Chinese produced primarily cast coinage, and this spread to South-East Asia and Japan. Relatively few non-Chinese cast coins were produced by governments, however it was a common practice amongst counterfeiters. Since the early 18th century and before, presses (normally referred to as mills in coin collecting circles) have been used in the west, beginning with screw presses and progressing in the 19th century towards steam driven presses. The first of these presses were developed in France and Germany, and quickly spreading to Britain.Modern minting techniques use electric and hydraulic presses.

The type of mintage method (being hammered, milled or cast) does limit the materials which can be used for the coin. For example antimony coins, (which are very rare) are nearly always cast examples, because of the brittle nature of the metal, and thus it would break if deformed, which is a key part of the milling and hammering process.

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