Image provided courtesy of the Bank of England.

The ancient kingdom of Lydia, located in the western part of Anatolia in modern-day Turkey, is considered to be the origin of the first gold coins. Initially, the metal used was the naturally occurring electrum found in river beds and consisting of approximately 80-90% gold and 10-20% silver. However, the early Lydian coins had a much lower gold content, of around 55%, suggesting that the Lydian metallurgists were able to separate silver from electrum and then add extra silver to the coinage alloy before casting the coins.

The earliest coins, like these shown above, date from the late seventh century BCE, i.e., 600-625 BCE. The only markings consist of the punch marks on one side. By the middle of the sixth century BCE, the Lydians were producing pure gold coins such as the renowned Croesus Stater with a design on one side and punch marks on the other.

The refining techniques used by the Lydians are described in fascinating detail in the book King Croesus’ Gold, based on excavations at Sardis.


600 BCE
Ancient History
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