Featured "As rich as Croesus"/The first silver coin, and it’s story

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Ryro, Feb 9, 2020.

  1. Ryro

    Ryro You'll never be lovelier than you are now... Supporter

    King Croesus ruler of Lydia:

    (Croesus on the Pyre, Louvre)

    The man had money. His name is synonymous with wealth and riches.
    Almost 2,600 years later we're still saying it. He may have done more for the development of Coinage than any other single individual in history.

    It wasn't enough wealth to have his name used for the myth of King Midas. Though, certainly he fits the story better than anyone else in ancient history. And probably helped inspire the Midas myth.


    There is a wonderful story of Croesus meeting an elderly Solon, told by Herodotus. Yep, that Solon whom reformed Athens by rewriting all is laws. After showing Solon his palace and wealth Croesus asks Solon who the happiest man he had met was. Obviously, expecting to hear his own names.
    Solon replied, "There was a man in Athens named Tellus who was able to live until his children had children and he was still able to fight and die in battle. It was a glorious death. All celebrated him."
    Croesus was inflamed. After a few other stories of individuals that Solon felt lived happy lives Solon let a more and more perturbed Croesus in on a secret. Solon explained that he couldn't judge Croesus as happy as long as he was still alive. The Greeks had a belief that luck wasn't a good thing. If someone was lucky surely something bad was going to happy to them to even it out. This ment that the Greeks viewed happiness differently then the Persians and though Croesus felt that he was happy, Solon believed he was going to take a fall. The tale is probably just that. And might never have happened. But it's great moral was obvious. Hubris gets you nothing. And karmas a B.

    (Bust of Solon, Copy of Greek original)

    It wasn't enough gold and silver to defeat Cyrus the great of Persia.
    Croesus famously sought advice from the Oracle at Delphi who had told him that if he went to war against Cyrus he would 'destroy a great empire’ and here the 'great empire’ destroyed had been his own, not that of Cyrus.
    Though, his wealth was enough for him to remain onboard as puppet ruler after going up against one of the greatest, if not the, conquerors that Persia ever produced. Interestingly, though we are told Cyrus was moved to let Croesus live... The date we use for his death is the same date of the battle.

    (Relief of Cyrus the great)

    He had some of the ancient world's most remarkable monuments built.
    Croesus funded the construction of the temple of Artemis at Ephesus. One of the seven wonders of the ancient world... I seem to remember reading a pretty cool article about the place from not too long ago https://www.cointalk.com/threads/ar...s-the-question-of-quality-vs-quantiti.354333/

    And despite his wealth, no coins from his reign bare his name (though his successors would). And yet, no comprehensive writing on Coinage can be written without his name.
    What did he do that made him so impactful?
    A couple of things. First off, Croesus was the first to use pure silver and gold for his Coinage. Before he came along, for the previous hundred years or less, coins were made from a natural mixture of gold and silver we call electrum.

    My only bit of electrum is a Lion's paw fouree:

    Ionia. Ephesos
    circa 600-550 BC.
    1/48 Stater EL fourrée
    3mm., 0,15g.
    Lion's paw / Incuse punch.
    nearly very fine
    Karwiese series I / Type 1 (for prototype).

    Next up, using these 2 metals he created the world's first bimetallic monetary system. With the silver valued at a 13 to 1 ratio to the gold.
    This is something that was revolutionary for Coinage and cannot be understated.

    (Insert image of gold coin from Ryro collection here. Image missing:facepalm:)

    All that said, a coin of Croesus was just a dream list coin for me. No way I'm getting the first silver coin in the history of planet Earth... Right???


    Thanks to taking my time, keeping an eye out and a couple test marks, I was able to acquire a very desirable coin in much better condition than my budget should allow!
    Check it out!

    Kings of Lydia. Sardeis. Kroisos 564-539 BC.
    Siglos AR
    Confronted foreparts of lion right, with extended right foreleg, and bull left / Bipartite incuse squares of unequal size.
    14 mm., 5,11 g.
    2 test cuts on obverese, 1 on reverse. nearly very fine
    Ex Savoca

    I don't think you'd be in this forum if you didn't think money was pretty cool.

    So, please post any coins of Croesus, first coin types, dream list coins you acquired or anything at all that doesn't destroy you're kingdom... Though might've done damage to your budget:greedy:;)
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2020
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  3. MarcosX

    MarcosX Active Member

    There is some silver diobols that are dated pre Kroisos. I personally believe Greek traders / merchants of Ionia invented coinage and the Lydians adopted the idea thereafter they have the first bimettalic system under a kingdom though which is true. But most good ideas come up from trade example the Greek alphabet adapted from the Phoenician alphabet via trade etc. I always keep lydian coins in stock though they are so important to the hobby. One of my favorite areas of ancients. Great iconic coin.
    Ryro likes this.
  4. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Oooh, great coin! One of these days I want to get a Croesus siglos.
    lrbguy and Ryro like this.
  5. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Great writeup, Ryro, and nice new addition!

    Mine has a little countermark on the reverse, struck neatly beside the incuse punch.

    [​IMG]LYDIA, Kingdom of. Kroisos.
    AR Siglos. 5.31g, 19.1mm. LYDIA, Sardes, circa 560-546 BC. Rosen 663; SNG Kayhan 1024-1026. O: Confronted foreparts of a lion and a bull. R: Two incuse squares, one larger than the other; to left, countermark: head wearing crested helmet right.
    Finn235, TIF, dadams and 10 others like this.
  6. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    We all need one! But I don't have one. :( Congrats!!

    Too bad we can't all be as cool a @zumbly with that countermark...
    TIF, zumbly and Ryro like this.
  7. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

    My own observation is that influential merchants have generally disliked coinage. Today the the big banks are trying to do away with them. In the 1930's Keynes scoffed at them. Around 1816 when silver coin was re-introduced in Britain the guy leading the parliamentary opposition was mockingly called "Old Merchant".

    This is in line with the thesis P N Ure lodged for the introduction of coinage at Ancient Athens - that it was a political move against the dominant merchant class.

    It is consistent too with Kurke's account of what happened in Ancient Lydia.

    Anyone got contrary facts?

    Rob T
    eparch and Ryro like this.
  8. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    Great post and congratulations on crossing Croesus off of your list! Here's my heavy gold stater, a coin I dreamed about for a long time and one which I was able to cross off my list thanks to a recent flood of them appearing on the market. I waited for a while to find one with the full obverse design: it's interesting to see the end of the punch design on the right side of my coin, something I hadn't seen in other examples as the planchet tends to be a bit small:

    JulesUK, red_spork, kazuma78 and 17 others like this.
  9. MarcosX

    MarcosX Active Member

    here is
    Here is a pretty good read on the subject: its googleable
    Columbia University Department of Economics Discussion Paper Series
    The Birth of Coinage
    Robert A. Mundell
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  10. Neal

    Neal Well-Known Member

    My tiny Croesus. A trihemiobol, I believe. It's not in great shape, but it's one of my favorite coins because of its history. IMG_9246.JPG IMG_9239.JPG
    TIF, zumbly, dadams and 6 others like this.
  11. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    @Ryro -DUDE... awesome-Awesome-AWESOME everything... write-up, pics, and, YEAH - coin! Thank you for the preview a while ago!

    No Croesos here, but you asked for a “first coin type”... :)

    From the Land of Karma...

    India Gandahara
    AR Bent Bar 11.3g
    650-600 BCE
    RARE - two dots - also have on BOTH sides - very R
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2020
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  12. Ryro

    Ryro You'll never be lovelier than you are now... Supporter

    @MarcosX thanks for sharing the knowledge! I'll have to read that article in full. Any pictures of these pre Kroisos silver diobols would be awesome:wideyed:
    Thanks @TIF ee:cigar: I seem to recall seeing a very early coin in your collection at some point. Wish I could remember what it was...:pompous:
    Yeah, @Severus Alexander is right again. @zumbly's got a coin with wonderful a tone, strike, centering. But man O man, that countermark (that sure looks like Athena in her Corinthian helmet to me) is, a cherry on top caramel on top ice cream on top a fudge brownie on top of cake, type of
    @AncientJoe, thanks so much for sharing the world's first golden coin (at least, according to Berk in his 100 Greatest Ancient Coins).
    That lion looks absolutely FIERCE in gold!
    My dreams are of coins. And my dreams have dreams. And those dreams still don't have coins as nice as coins in your collection, my friend. Please keep sharing those absolute showstoppers:)
    Fun lil dude, @Neal. I Love the tiny ancients:artist:
    Goodness me @Alegandron! You and TIFee got a sneak peak of that one. But only she has seen my new BIG boy (or lady) that I'll have to write up soon.
    I don't remember seeing your festively decorated Crow bar!:joyful:
    I love those and have been chasing one of my own for a while now. I couldn't afford the whole bar. So I just bought the handle:
  13. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Kinda like my handle-less one?

    India Matsya AR Vimsatika 650-600 BC stamped bankers mark on reverse
  14. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Excellent and iconic pick-up!

    I got mine a little less than a year ago - the "Croesid" or double sigloi weights are still quite expensive, but I've noticed that the sigloi have gone down a bit - perhaps a small hoard found recently?
    Lydia croesus siglos.jpg

    Also something I have not seen fully illustrated/explained is how to attribute a given type to Croesus himself or Darius - Frankly, I'm not sure which would be more cool!

    As @Alegandron posted, it is possible that the earliest few Indian coins predate these types, although the fact that the Shatamana is equal in weight to the Croesid/shekel does beg the question of which actually came first...

    20170816_2017-08-16-10.16.33.jpg 20170816_2017-08-16-10.16.49.jpg

    Equally amusing is the fact that coinage was invented in three places:
    - In Greece, gold coinage was invented first, silver second, and bronze last
    - In India, silver coinage was invented first, bronze second, and gold last
    - In China, bronze coinage was invented first, silver second, and gold didn't really take hold until the 1900s.
  15. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

    Thanks, but the matter I was questioning concerned the role of merchants in first coin use, and I did not find any thing on that matter in the paper you cite. Can you point out what you are relying upon?

    Well - text suggests these circulated before 326 BC - but its really not clear how much earlier these were struck. Joe Cribb at the BM wanted to push the first date post 400 BC. My guess would be more like 450 BC. Truth is we do not have more than guesses I think.

    The apparently earliest (short) bent bars seem to weight c. 11.5g, thus well above Croesid/shekel at c. 10.7g – and even higher than the late Issues of Darius - if we take a double siglos as a shekel (c. 11.2g)

    There was a very old weight standard, often associated with the Hittites, of c. 11.8g. Perhaps in use by 2,000 BC? My own guess would be that various diverse weight standards, perhaps including the bent bar, prominent Jewish standards, and the Persian silver standard all might derive for that source. If so - the date of the coin issues is not really relevant to what is going on.

    Rob T
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2020
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  16. MarcosX

    MarcosX Active Member

    what facts do I have? big banks not liking coinage isnt exactly true, it depends on what a coin is nowadays, the banks make money from interchange every time you swipe a debit card they make "coin" from that and so does Visa& MA., it might not be actual Physical coins but they are making a fraction of a coin every time its done. Restaurants and other businesses created their own currencies and scrip for decades, to fill voids because that is what businesses do, nature abhors a vacuum as they say... as for Keynes he was a money printing moron not sure why he is even being mentioned.
    coins were created by Ionian traders for ease of business than adopted by the Lydian higher ups that is my speculation, they've gotten a lot credit for it in history but its never been proven. I cited that article because I happen to agree with it not that it necessarily touched on merchants roles exactly so my error there.
    but still a good read
  17. MarcosX

    MarcosX Active Member

    Ryro you should check out the last King of Lydia by Tim Leach I love that book,
    it starts with the story you mentioned.
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  18. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

    Let me explain my own position regarding Croesus etc.

    Prior to coins the wealthy could easily make large payments in bullion by weight. But the rest of the population probably had little access to bullion and lived close to a kind of serfdom, with rents taken in kind, rather like tithes.

    The first coins (best guess in Lydia) were a big step away from that serfdom, giving citizens a measure of financial independence - giving them access to their own little stores of bullion. The new states offering coinage however took their own cut, in part by debasement of the electrum, and perhaps too in a reduced weight standard.

    A second step was taken by Croesus, who purified the metal, and thus got rid of seigniorage taken by debasement. He probably continued to take seigniorages by weight, maybe at the rates of c. 2% to 5%.

    A third step was taken by Darius, to issue pure coins at full weight. Historically, Darius might be judged to go a step too far, since most coinages in precious metal since do apply at least a small seigniorage/brockage.

    The relevant point here concerning the input of Nobel Laureates like Mundell is this. I judge the switch from coin use to paper use, and then paper use to electric money are near exactly reversing the changes brought in long since by Croesus & Co. Many economists seem involved in pushing the general population back towards a form of pre-coinage serfdom (Keynes was quite specific on that).

    Regarding Keynes being a “moron”. Keynes maintained a big country house and an affluent lifestyle largely on the proceeds of his own commodity trading. Not my idea of a “moron”.

    However, I notice Nobel Laureate Economist Mundell already accused Newton of “ignorance” and Nobel Laureate Economist Sargent suggested Locke was “an idiot”. Maybe that answers my question - you are unwisely adopting the habits of modern Economists?

    Rob T
  19. MarcosX

    MarcosX Active Member

    Since when are modern economists not Keynesian? look at whats going in the world
  20. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

    A puzzling loaded question since nobody here claimed ‘modern economists are not Keynesian’

    However, thanks indeed for the introduction to the wonderful world of Robert Mundell!

    He gives a fascinating version of the world’s 20th century economic history in his Nobel acceptance speech here:


    If I have it right - he makes extraordinary claims – perhaps (?) that if the US had manipulated the gold price three years earlier we might have avoided WW II!

    I really have no idea if he is right or not – but doubtless he confers a sort of god like status on economic tinkerers like himself, and its easy to see why that would be a popular view amongst economists.

    However, the importance of Mundell surely really lies not in his historical analysis, or the fact he won a big prize. Its because as “Godfather of the Euro” he actually did have a massive personal effect on world economic history.

    As a humble numismatist I really cannot comment on his modern macroeconomic analysis. But he wrote a lot bearing on old coins. I see very serious problems in his extensive writing on the history of old coins. Again the problem is a sort of god-like bending of the facts to suit what he would like to believe about pre-modern coinage events, rather than what actually seems to have happened.

    Our world is in the hands of such people.............

    Rob T
  21. MarcosX

    MarcosX Active Member

    I'm not really interested in his thoughts on modern economics either I'm not even familiar with him in that regards. but like I said the points on early coinage I agreed with.
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