The heritage of ancient coins is a subject that intrigues and delights collectors and scholars the world over. The oldest coin available today was discovered in Efesos, an ancient Hellenic city and prosperous trading center on the coast of Asia Minor. The 1/6 stater, pictured below, is more than 2,700 years old, making it one of the very earliest coins. Made from electrum, a natural occuring alloy of gold and silver, the coin originated in the area of Lydia. It had a design on one side only, a result of the primitive method of manufacture. This ancient stater was hand struck. A die with a design (in this case a lion’s head) for the obverse (front) of the coin was placed on an anvil. A blank piece of metal was placed on top of the die, and a punch hammered onto the reverse. The result was a coin with an image on one side and a punch mark on the other.
he stater is a key exhibit in the Department of Coins and Medals of the British Museum, which houses one of the world’s finest numismatic collections, comprising about 1 million objects. The earliest issues, thought to date from the reign of Alyattes (about 610 – 560 BC) or perhaps his predecessor Sadyattes – both of the Mermnad dynasty – feature the Lydian kings’ emblem of a roaring lion, almost always with a curious knob, often called a “nose wart,” on its forehead.