Brett W. asks: What was the first coin invented?
The first use of coinage was in China in about 2000 BC. These coins were models, in miniature, of common, every-day objects such as knives and spades. These “coins” were cast from bronze and by 1000 BC were officially inscribed. The concept was to trade a token of the item that originally had been traded by barter. So many “knives” equaled a cow. The “knives” were a place marker or token good for future needs.
Coins in the Western World began at about 700 BC. Although the Egyptians and Assyrians exchanged precious metal bullion bars and rings, they had no official guarantee that these items contained a specific amount of precious metal.
The Lydians are credited with creating official money in the form of a local natural alloy of gold and silver called “electrum”. The coins were carefully weighed so that the proper amount of electrum was present. These coins are struck only on one side with an official mark and with a punch mark on the other. For example, the electrum stater (650-561 BC) shows two lion heads face to face with three punches on the reverse. At first, the coinage values were very high, representing a soldier’s wages for a month. Later refinements allowed for fractional staters and lower value coins in both gold and silver so that the coinage would be effective for normal, everyday transactions. Stamping these crude coins with an official seal guaranteed their weight and eliminated the need for subsequent weighing each time the coins were spent.