Figure of the month: 560

News Arnulf Hinkel, financial journalist – 04.02.2019

It is estimated that gold was discovered by humans sometime around 5,000 BC as one of the first metals ever. The oldest preserved gold artefacts are dated 4,600 to 4,300 BC. Given these dates, and the fact that gold has always been considered valuable by mankind, it is amazing that it took until 560 BC for the first official coin to be produced of pure gold. Gold as a currency has its origin in the kingdom of Lydia, which extended along the Mediterranean coast of Asia Minor in an area around today's city of Izmir in Turkey.

The first gold coin was released in the land of the gold river

Lydia was crossed by rivers, one of which contained enormous quantities of gold, which were created, according to legend, when King Midas washed away his curse – everything he touched turned into gold – in this river. It is a fact that the last king of Lycia, Croesus (in Greek Kroisus), was quite literally rolling in gold, which might be the reason he was the very first to come up with the idea of using the valuable commodity as official currency. For practical reasons, is was shaped into coins and named "Kroiseios" after its creator.

The world's first complete bimetallic currency system

King Croesus did not limit himself to the introduction of a gold coin, but created a complete coin universe, which today is considered the archetype for later currency systems. The largest denomination in the first coin system was the heavy Goldstater with a weight of 10.6 grams. Also, there were the light Goldstater with 8.1 grams, the Trite (1/3 Goldstater), the Hekte (1/6 Goldstater) as well as the Hemihekte (1/12 Goldstater). At the same time, a variant of this coinage system was introduced, using silver instead of gold. The coins corresponded to the gold coins in terms of weight and fragmentation, but were of course of much less value and therefore intended for smaller expenses, while the gold coins were used for long-distance trades and rent payments.

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