What is the oldest thing you own? Maybe it’s a family heirloom, a vintage clothing item, or a rare book. But what if you had something that was thousands of years old?
Something that witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations, something that was once used by kings and emperors, something that was more than just a piece of metal. That’s what coins are.
Coins are one of the oldest forms of money and have been used by various civilizations for thousands of years.
They are usually made of metal and have a distinctive design or symbol that represents their value, origin, or authority.
Coins are not only a medium of exchange but also a source of historical and cultural information. In this article, we will explore the 10 oldest coins in the world and learn about their history and significance.
Year Created: c. – 480 BCE Country of Origin: Achaemenid Persian Empire, Western Asia Metal Used: Gold
The Persian daric was a gold coin that was introduced by Darius I, the third emperor of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, around the 6th century BCE. The coin had a standard weight of 8.4 grams and a high purity of about 95.83%. The coin was named after the Old Persian word dari, meaning “king” or “ruler.” The coin had a simple design of a crowned king holding a bow and a spear on one side and an incuse punch mark on the other. The daric was widely used as a trade currency throughout the Persian Empire and beyond, until it was replaced by the coins of Alexander the Great after his conquest of Persia in 330 BCE.
Aegina Sea Turtle
Year Created: c.550 BCE Country of Origin: Island of Aegina, Greece Metal Used: Silver
The Aegina sea turtle was one of the first coins minted by the Greeks and the first coin to be used as an international trade currency. The coin was issued by the island of Aegina, which was located near the trade routes of the eastern Mediterranean and had a prosperous economy. The coin was made of silver and had a weight of about 12.2 grams. The coin had a distinctive design of a sea turtle, which was the symbol of the island, on one side and a geometric pattern on the other. The sea turtle coin was widely accepted and circulated in the ancient world and influenced the coinage of other Greek city-states and regions.
Year Created: c.600 – 500 BCE Country of Origin: Cyme, Ionia, Western Asia Metal Used: Silver
The Ionian hemiobol was a small silver coin that was minted by the city of Cyme, which was located in the region of Ionia, in modern-day Turkey. The coin had a weight of about 0.4 grams and a value of half an obol, which was a basic unit of currency in ancient Greece. The coin had a simple design of a horse’s head on one side, and a floral or geometric pattern on the other. The coin was one of the earliest examples of Greek coinage and was used for small transactions and retail trade. The coin also demonstrated the influence of the Lydian coinage, which was the first coinage in the world, on the neighboring Ionian cities.
Hallaton Silver Coin
Year Created: c.211 BCE Country of Origin: Rome, Italy (found in Hallaton, England) Metal Used: Silver
The Hallaton silver coin was a Roman coin that was found in Hallaton, England, as part of the Hallaton Treasure, the largest hoard of British Iron Age coins ever discovered. The coin had a weight of about 3.9 grams and a value of one denarius, which was a standard silver coin of the Roman Republic. The coin had a design of the goddess Roma wearing a helmet on one side, and the mythical twins Castor and Pollux riding a horse on the other. The coin was the oldest Roman coin ever found in Britain and was evidence of the trade and contact between Britain and Rome before the Roman conquest in 43 CE.
Etruscan Gold Coin
Year Created: c.300 BCE Country of Origin: Populonia, Etruria, Central Italy Metal Used: Gold
The Etruscan gold coin was a rare and valuable coin that was minted by the city of Populonia, which was the only Etruscan city that had access to the sea and a major center of metalworking. The coin had a weight of about 8.1 grams and a value of 25 silver drachmas, which was a common currency in the Mediterranean. The coin had a design of a human head, possibly a god or a ruler, on one side, and a blank or a punch mark on the other. The coin was one of the few examples of Etruscan coinage and was a reflection of the wealth and power of the Etruscan civilization, which was eventually absorbed by the Roman Republic.
Chinese Knife Coin
Year Created: c.400 – 300 BCE Country of Origin: Yan State, Northern China Metal Used: Bronze
The Chinese knife coin was a bronze coin that was shaped like a knife or a spade, which were common tools in ancient China. The coin had a length of about 15 cm and a weight of about 40 grams. The coin had a design of a ring handle and a blade with inscriptions of the name and the weight of the coin. The coin was issued by the state of Yan, which was one of the warring states that competed for power and territory in ancient China. The coin was used as a medium of exchange and a symbol of authority in the northern regions of China, until it was replaced by the round coins of the Qin Dynasty, which unified China in 221 BCE.
Year Created: c.336 – 323 BCE Country of Origin: Macedonia, Northern Greece Metal Used: Silver
The Macedonian tetradrachm was a silver coin that was minted by Alexander the Great, the king of Macedonia and one of the greatest conquerors in history. The coin had a weight of about 17 grams and a value of four drachmas, which was a standard currency in the ancient Greek world. The coin had a design of the head of Heracles wearing a lion skin on one side, and the name and the symbol of Alexander, a bow and a club, on the other. The coin was widely circulated and imitated throughout the vast empire that Alexander created, from Greece to India, and became a universal currency that facilitated trade and cultural exchange in the ancient world.
Ptolemaic Gold Octodrachm
Year Created: c.285 – 246 BCE Country of Origin: Ptolemaic Kingdom, Egypt Metal Used: Gold
The Ptolemaic gold octodrachm was a gold coin that was minted by Ptolemy II, the second ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom, which was founded by one of the generals of Alexander the Great after his death. The coin had a weight of about 27.8 grams and a value of eight drachmas, which was a high denomination coin in the ancient world. The coin had a design of the deified portrait of Ptolemy I, the father of Ptolemy II, wearing a diadem and a horn of Ammon on one side, and the name and the symbol of Ptolemy II, an eagle standing on a thunderbolt, on the other. The coin was one of the most impressive and beautiful coins in history and was a demonstration of the wealth and prestige of the Ptolemaic Kingdom, which was the center of culture and learning in the Hellenistic world.
Year Created: c.27 BCE – 476 CE Country of Origin: Roman Empire, Europe, Africa, and Asia Metal Used: Gold
The Roman aureus was a gold coin that was minted by the Roman Empire, which was one of the largest and most influential empires in history. The coin had a weight of about 8 grams and a value of 25 silver denarii, which was the main silver coin of the Roman Empire. The coin had a design of the portrait and the name of the emperor or the empress on one side, and various images and legends related to the achievements, virtues, or deities of the ruler on the other. The coin was used as a standard currency and a propaganda tool throughout the Roman Empire and beyond, and reflected the political and social changes that occurred in the Roman history.
Year Created: c.600 BCE Country of Origin: Lydia, Western Asia Metal Used: Electrum
The Lydian lion was the first coin in the world and the origin of coinage. The coin was minted by the kingdom of Lydia, which was located in modern-day Turkey and was known for its rich deposits of electrum, a natural alloy of gold and silver. The coin had a weight of about 4.7 grams and a value of one-third of a stater, which was the basic unit of currency in Lydia. The coin had a design of a lion’s head, which was the symbol of the Lydian kings, on one side, and a punch mark on the other. The coin was a revolutionary invention that enabled the standardization, storage, and exchange of value and influenced the development of trade, economy, and civilization in the ancient world.