Brief History Of Coins

A lot of coins from ancient times have been found all around the world. Thus, documenting the history of coins can be such a daunting task.

It is commonly believed that the Chinese were the first to use cast coins as currency extensively, which they minted to replace the then traditional shell currency. This was during the Shang Dynasty, around the 11th century BC. Most of these coins bore Chinese characters, and some still exist today as part of public and private collections.

In the Western hemisphere, the use of coins as currency is said to have started in Lydia, a neo-Hittite civilization that thrived in the 12th century BC. Coins that were minted around 643 BC in a natural alloy of silver and gold known as electrum have been found. These coins were continuously produced and carried the guarantee of the Lydian rulers, and are considered the first metal currency.

Major world civilizations followed suit. Since then, metal coins have been used to trade for various goods and services the world over.

In the 5th century BC, the Greeks enlisted the services of classical artists to design coins bearing faces and figures. In particular, gods, goddesses, and deities in Greek mythology were beautifully depicted as humans in idealized versions. It is therefore no wonder that collectors today find Greek coins as among the best in terms of aesthetics.

The use of coins was propagated by Alexander the Great in all the territories he conquered, specifically coins with realistic designs rather than idealistic representations. Today, these coins are seen as among the very rare materials bearing the realistic portraits of powerful ancient leaders.

During the 16th century, the “planchet” coin production method, the forerunner to the die method used today, was implemented by the Italians. Prior to that, coins were typically fabricated using a hammer and anvil. The punch method made the mass production of coins possible, and the rest of the civilized world caught on.

The first North American coins are believed to have been minted in Mexico City soon after Spain conquered the New World; while In the US, the official minting of coins started in 1792, after the Coinage Act was passed. The act established the US dollar as the official unit of currency in all member-states of the union, and this is in effect to this very day.

 

The Philadelphia Mint produced the first US coin, the US Silver Dollar in 1792. The Denver Mint followed suit in 1906. The West Point Mint and the San Francisco Mint likewise minted coins, but these were primarily gold coins and proof sets. Every US coin is stamped with a W, S, D, or P that stands for the manufacturer.

 

Some hobbyists collect purely US coins, from those minted in the 1700s to the currently-circulated coins. Among the popular collectibles are the Kennedy half dollar (1964), the Susan B. Anthony coin (silverless dollar), and the State Quarters series which is very popular among young collectors.

 

A lot of rare and ancient coins still exist today, thanks to the longevity of the metals used for the coins. And chance discoveries and formal diggings continue to uncover ancient and not so old coins used in the past, which is good news for coin collectors everywhere.