The History of Coins
By D. L. Crane
have always had some type of monetary unit or
compensatory method. In the ancient days of
China shells were used, then later the
Mesopotamians invented a type of banking where
people could keep their grain, gold, livestock
or other things safe or trade them by making a
system of deposit. Actual coins began to appear
a little later in time, and made life a lot
easier for those who used them
The full history of coin covers a time span that
ranges from ancient to modern day and is in
fact, still unfolding.
The First Coins
Coins were invented at some point around 700 BC.
Depending on who you ask, they were invented
near Aegina Island or according to other
scholars; the point of invention was in Ephesus
Lydia at about 650 BC.
However you slice it, the first coins in the
world appeared around 650-700 BC and were tied
to the ancient Greeks. They were made of an
alloy which was called electrum, which was a
mingling of gold and silver and featured the
head of a lion on the front side.
Many people believe that keeping things neater,
making life more convenient was the impetus for
development of actual coins. Since the time of
those first coins and the lightweight,
convenient means of payment that they offered,
different countries have developed their own
The Byzantine Empire was responsible for the
minting of numerous different coins, many of
them which bore the images of the emperors and
later, of the cross of Christianity.
Tombs found as early as the latter part of the
11th century BC in China show us what are some
of the first copper coins that have been found
and from those tombs we know that coins were
widely used by the Han Dynasty of China.
How Were Coins Made?
Many of the earliest coins were beaten around
the edge so that they imitated the shape of a
cow, which was their approximate value. Some
coins were rectangle in shape while others were
round. Many had holes in them so that they could
be strung and carried even more conveniently.
The first coins that we find in history were
made of little more than scraps from various
metals. They were made by a hammer hitting the
metal scrap that lay on an anvil. The Chinese
introduced the first cast type of coinage that
was seen, and this soon spread to Japan and
other parts of Asian but aside from these, very
few governments used cast coins.
The earliest coins that we find which were made
of entirely gold or silver were the gold Dinars
and the silver Dirhams which were found in the
7th century in the earliest years of the Islamic
United States Coins and Mints
The United States coins that are in use today
have seen multiple changes since they began. The
US Mint, which is the organization that makes
United States coins was established by an act of
Congress in 1792, and has operated continuously
since that time. It was not until nearly a
hundred years later, in 1873 that it became part
of the Treasury Department.
United States coins have seen a wide array of
change since they began to be made. Originally
only a few coins were minted. Many of these
contained some level of silver. Due to a wide
range shortage of silver that took place the
world over the Congress of the United States
passed a coinage act.
The Coinage Act of 1965 caused a change to be
made in the makeup of such coins as dimes,
quarters, and fifty-cent pieces. These had all
previously been made of about ninety percent
silver. The silver content was completely
removed from the quarter and the dime, while the
half dollar content was lowered to about forty
percent silver. That coins silver content too
was removed in the early 1970's so that now the
half dollar bears no silver in its makeup.
U.S. coins which were made in the beginning were
Gold Coins in the United States appeared in the
Many of these coins were in play in the United
States from about 1795 until 1933 in the United
Coin denominations that are in use today in the
United States are the familiar penny, nickel,
dime, and quarter, although at various times
others are minted such as the Susan B Anthony
and the Sacagawea dollars.
Mints and Mint Marks
The United States coins were given mint marks in
many cases, which changed the appearance, and
sometimes the value of the coins.
There are only a few mints that are now in
operation but there have in the past been more.
The Philadelphia mint began in 1792 and has
functioned since that time. Denver mint entered
into play beginning in 1906, while West Point
Mint, which was at one time the bullion
depository, does primarily gold Silver &
Platinum coins. It was not officially recognized
as a mint until 1988.
All coins in the United States offer a mint mark
that lets you know which mint produced those
coins. This is true with just a few exceptions.
Between 1965, when the Coinage Act specified
that no mint marks be used, and 1968, when they
were authorized to reappear, no mint marks
appeared on US coins. U.S mint marks usually
show a P, or no mint mark for Philadelphia and D
for those coins minted in Denver, while an S is
shown for San Francisco, and a W mint mark for
those coins minted at West Point.
Coins are not only a means of payment. They are
now, and have been for many years, a means of
investment, as well as something that is avidly
and ardently collected. Coin collectors have
spent many thousands, sometimes millions of
dollars on a rare coin that was highly sought
Highly Expensive Coins.
In 1933 the US government decided they would no
longer distribute the Double Eagle gold coin and
destroyed all that existed. The problem was that
they didn't. One man had managed to steal
several which the government thought they had
recovered and destroyed.
Again, they thought wrong. Three of the Double
Eagle coins survived the destruction. Two of
them were in the Smithsonian Museum, while the
third came into the hands of a private
collector. That coin was stored in a vault in
the World Trade Center after being seized when
it entered the country to be sold in New York.
Fortunately the coin was moved just a few weeks
before the 9-11 attacks and had ended up in Fort
Knox. In 2002 it was sold to a collector who
remains unnamed at a cost of more than 7 Million
dollars, which makes it the most costly coin
Among the most avidly collected coins that have
been sought after are some which are the most
ancient and unique, as well as others which are
not quite so ancient, but piqued the interest of
collectors. Roman coins, Greek Coins, Pirate
doubloons and Byzantine coins are some of the
most prized by collectors throughout history,
but so too is the Kennedy half dollar. Highly
prized by collectors as well are mint sets and
What is a Proof Set?
A proof set is a set of coins that are packaged
by the mint which produced them. These coins are
specially made types of the coins. They are
coins which has had the planchet( the blank
metal of which the coin is made) very highly
polished. The coins are then struck not once but
several times so that the quality of the image
on the coin is extremely detailed.
What is a Mint Set?
A mint set is a set of coins that are
uncirculated and specially packaged. They
contain one of each denomination for the coins
that were minted in that year.
Gold and Silver Coins and Bullion
Also prized by both collectors and investors are
the various other types of bullion coins. They
are minted specifically for use as pure precious
metal coins. They are comprised of gold bullion,
silver bullion, or sometimes even platinum. The
coins are made in multiple ways, by multiple
countries. Not only United States coins are
Among those coins which are minted world wide
and are collected and sought after are:
American Eagle gold, silver and platinum coins
Buffalo Gold Coins
Canadian Maple Leaf gold & silver
South African Krugerrands
Chinese Panda gold and silver coins
British Sovereign gold coins
.999 Fine Gold & silver Bars
Coins, as you can see have enjoyed a long and
diverse history. Collecting coins and precious
metals is a unique hobby as well as an
investment that can net you some remarkable
returns, both in monetary compensation, as well
as personal satisfaction.
www.BestCoin.Com for a Free Coin Guide and
More Coin Collecting Information.