Money is a medium of exchange that naturally evolved from the need to pay people for goods and services that they provide. In the ancient days, people used money. However, their system of financial exchange was not as complex as it is today.
The first coins that people used to purchase goods were made out of various metals. They frequently bore the images of a culture’s deities or their rulers. Some forms of money just had monetary symbols and some were metal pieces and people could recognize their value based off of their shape, color and style.
The Lydians were the first ancient people that historians “claimed” to have used coins. However, there is evidence that other ancient cultures might have used coins long before the Lydian people.
Here is a list of the top ancient coins that have been used by various civilizations throughout history.
10. Colombia’s Leprosy Coins: The Lazareto
Many people might not realize this but the nation of Columbia had a problem with leprosy in the early 20th century. It was sometime around the early 1900’s that the government began to set up various colonies to protect and support these individuals. They also decided to provide these individuals with their own form of currency. This was to reduce the chances of spreading the infection to the masses.
These coins were called the Lazareto. They were often scrubbed to the point where the marking were faded. They various denominations that ranged from 1 to 50 centavos or cents. These coins were primarily used between 1901 and 1928. Once the problem of leprosy was under control (by the 1950’s the colonies were disbanded) the government stopped using the Lazareto just for the lepers. These coins are still around but they are not in use like they were in the past.
9. The Legacy of the Silver Dollar
The silver dollar has a very peculiar history. This coin is technically a counterfeit piece from the early 20th century. The silver dollar was originally minted by the U.S. Mint in 1804. At least 20,000 coins were made with a plate that had 1803 which obviously was a mistake. After the coins were made they were put into circulation.
Shortly after this took place the U.S. Mint stopped making the coins for nearly 30 years. Then President Jackson decided to give all silver dollars that were still in circulation to a former king of Siam or Thailand. So, merchants began to turn the coins in for profit.
Meanwhile the US Mint started to discover a small amount of coins that had the year 1804 on them. They could not figure out why the coins were showing up with this date but they eventually realized that they were being forged or counterfeited.
A con man by the name of Theodore Eckfeldt realized that the silver dollar coins were very valuable. So, he figured out how to make his own version of the silver dollar. After Eckfeldt made these coins he then decided to market them to a some time between 1858 and 1860. Once the U.S. Mint realized was going on they managed to get all of the coins and destroyed them. However, there is only one that was spared and this one now sits in the Smithsonian Institution. It is the only one of its kind in existence.
8. The Tale of the “V” Nickel
During the 1800’s the U.S. Mint had a hard time dealing with counterfeiters. One of the coins that they had trouble with was the V nickel. The nickel was in circulation sometime around 1883. While the V on the nickel stands for the Roman numeral 5, some people made the coin out to be whatever amount they desired.
There were some counterfeiters that tried to increase their value to $5. They made them to look like the gold-plated $5 gold coins that was in circulation at the time. Once the government figured out what some swindlers were doing they started to stamp the V nickel with the phrase “5 cent” on them so people would know the V nickel’s true value.
7. Thirty Pieces
The story of Judas Iscariot is considered the ultimate story of betrayal in the history of man. Judas betrayed Jesus Christ to the Jewish religious leaders of the time for thirty pieces of silver. As a result of his betrayal, he realized that Jesus was an innocent man and he gave the Jews back the 30 pieces of silver before he went and hanged himself.
In those days, the Jewish people used Roman currencies. One remember what Jesus said in Mark 12:17 to the Jewish scribes who were testing him: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s”. Christ’s statement clearly reveals that the Jewish people of the day were using Roman coins.
The coins that Judas received for betraying Jesus were probably the Roman denarius. These coins were made from silver. They were primarily used for paying wages and for paying taxes to Rome. So, when the Jews paid Iscariot his fee for betraying Christ these were probably the coins that were used for the greatest betrayal in history.
6. Spade Money that can be used as Tools
Most people only use money as a medium of exchange. However, the ancient Chinese used their currency as a tool as well as an object for purchasing goods and services. The spade money originated in China sometime around 1122 B.C. and it was in use for nearly 700 years before it went out of favor.
There were different types of spade money coins and they all had a spade head with a handle. The handle had a socket that could be attached to a person’s belt, tools or other belongs. This form of currency allowed people to use the spades as tools as well as money.
People who lived during the Zhou kingdom were the primary ancient Chinese generation that used this currency. Each of the coins had their own unique markings and engravings that helped to define their amount and the time period that they were created. Eventually, they went out of style for a more interesting type of monetary standard which will be described in the next paragraph.
5. Knife Money: A not so Dangerous form of Currency
In China sometime between 600 B.C. and 200 B.C. knife money was used by the Zhou people. This article recently mentioned that the Zhou used spade money. Their use of spade money was replaced by knife money. This style of money was shaped like small knives and there were some that were large enough to be daggers.
Knife money also had holes in the handles which could be used for connecting the items to various objects. Unlike the spade money, knife money was not used as a tool or as a fighting weapon. The Zhou chose this standard primarily because of the fisher men and hunters who used these types of objects when bargaining or trading for goods.
4. Bronze Dolphin Coin
The people Olbia are not a favorite historical subject by many scholars. As a matter of fact, unless a person is really passionate about history or lives in an area close to modern day Ukraine; the knowledge of the Olbia would not even be a concern. However, the Olbia people were a small group of people that lived in what is known contemporary Ukraine and Turkey. This area is located near the Black Sea where a huge group of bottlenose dolphins live.
The Oliba were really fond of dolphins. As a matter of fact, they liked them so much that they based their currency on the shape of these sea creatures. Dolphin coins were used for about 200 years within the Oliba region. Historians often found these coins on the dead. Apparently, the coins were a part of their burial rituals.
3. Roman Coins
The Empire of Rome had to use a standard currency to control its economic activity. The ancient Romans had their own form of currency. Each ruling Caesar had their image stamped onto their own unique coins that they used for commerce. These coins were frequently used by Romans and their conquered subjects all throughout their empire.
The follis was a popular coin and the denarius was the coin that was in use during the time that Jesus Christ was on the Earth. Roman mints were in use and would often make a unique coin bearing the image of a Caesar and this would also be used in conjunction with the standard money that was used in commerce.
2. Dead People Coins
Charon’s Obol is the name of the Greek coin that was used as payment to the deity Charon for transporting dead people into the afterlife. This coin was mainly designed with a bug like engraving on it and some of the obols had the face of a deity (such as Medusa) or a picture of an anchor. Obols were usually placed inside of a person’s mouth when they died. Some Greeks used them to cover a dead person’s eyes. Of course these coins are no longer in circulation since they were used thousands of years ago.
1. Lydian Coins
At the beginning of this article the Lydian people were recognized as the first group of people within history to have used coins. Their use of coins started sometime around 600 B.C. The Lydians as a whole were a very rich and wealthy people. Once again, it could be argued that they were not the first group of people to make coins; it is just that these coins became popular because of the importance that they played in the lives of the Lydian people and the surrounding regions of the time.
Lydia was an economic power back in the day. Just like America is considered an economic power of today; the U.S. dollar would be the currency that people would remember the most. It was that way with the Lydians. They used a coin that had a symbol of a lion on it. This coin is considered the first to be widely used throughout Lydia and the rest of the known world.
These are the top 10 coins that impacted the world in terms of finance. These coins have interesting histories that were usually connected with ancient people’s way of life and spiritual beliefs.