It is frequently mentioned that gold has been used for thousands of years as a symbol of wealth, but when exactly did this begin? Well the oldest recovered gold coin, that is a coin specially shaped and used as currency, as opposed to gold’s use in jewellery, is over 2,700 years old and originates from Ephesus, an ancient Greek city which is located in modern day Turkey. Ephesus is now regarded as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to the extensive ruins and the long history associated with the site. It was famous in the ancient world for its silversmiths and its wonder of the ancient world, the Temple of Artemis, also known as the Temple of Diana during Roman times.
The Coin in question, called a Stater, and currently on display at the British Museum in London, was struck for use as currency in the Kingdom of Lydia, which ruled over much of what is now western Turkey. The kingdom of Lydia existed for approximately 600 years until around 500 BCE when it was conquered by the Persian King Cyrus the Great and became part of the Persian Empire. The Kingdom of Lydia featured some of the most well known cities of antiquity including Ephesus, Troy and Sardis which was the capital of Lydia. The Kingdom of Lydia is often credited with the invention of coinage with the first recorded mention of this use for precious metals coming from the Greek historian Herodotus.
The coin is made from a particular alloy of Gold and Silver known as Electrum which is naturally occurring in the fluvial deposits of the river Plactolus and is common in the area around Mount Tmolus, known as Mount Bozdag today. The ancients thought the unusually high concentrations of Electrum were present in the river after the legendary King Midas washed his hands in it to get rid of his golden touch. The coin was hand struck and features a design on the obverse and stamp marks on the reverse. Due to the primitive manufacturing techniques available at the time the design on the coin is limited to only the obverse side with striking marks on the reverse. The design features a lion which is a typical symbol of the Lydian Kings under whose auspices the coin was stuck.
Occasionally we stock historic coins of interest so be sure to check our website regularly for the chance to buy a historic gold coin.