History of Coins

Why would we discuss coins today, in the age of electronic transactions, credit cards, Bitcoin, and blockchain? Such hard currency may seem outdated, but, despite their archaism, coins remain a symbol of their countries’ financial independence.

Rare and Expensive

How many different precious metals do you know? Of course, three will quickly come to mind: gold, silver, and platinum. This list, though, ought to include iridium, osmium, palladium, rhodium, and ruthenium — all of whose main practical quality is corrosion resistance. Unlike iron that rusts and copper that turns green, gold and silver are able to resist aggression from oxygen and retain their marketable appearances. Therefore, it’s only natural that these precious metals, rare and difficult to extract, have long served as the measure of the value of goods.

The prominent American economist and Nobel laureate Milton Friedman considered the main coin metal in history to be “silver, not gold.” Indeed, when compared with gold, silver money is issued more often by an order of magnitude. In addition, the gold coins of antiquity and the early Middle Ages were actually made of electrum, a naturally-occurring gold-silver alloy, in which the silver content could reach 50 %.

Silver in the form of nuggets has been found across almost all regions where great civilizations once stood. Anatolia, the Greek mines of Laurion, Iberia, and Carthage is a short list of silver suppliers in the ancient world. It wasn’t easy to extract silver everywhere, so its supply could never increase dramatically. This restriction served as a reliable basis for commodity exchange, but sometimes this balance was broken, and real economic crises broke out.

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