The Origins of Coinage:
Three Ancient Coinage Systems

Man has been exchanging pieces of metal and other commodities for thousands of years. We only regard these items as coins when they are given a recognised mark or stamp authorising them to be accepted at a particular value.

Between c. 700BC and c. 400BC, three very different coinage systems emerged in the ancient world. The Greek and Chinese currencies seem to have developed independently of each other in around the seventh century BC, while the Indian coinage followed about two centuries later.

The Greek coinage system

The Chinese coinage system

The Indian coinage system


Electrum trite, Lydia

 Obverse of electrum trite, Lydia
Fitzwilliam Museum

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Department of Coins and Medals, Fitzwilliam Museum.