Electrum 1/3 stater, Kingdom of Lydia , early 7th century B.C. The Kings of Lydia are considered to be the earliest State authorities to use coins as we know them.
Electrum 1/3 stater,
Lydian kingdom,
2nd quarter of the
7th century B.C.

he production of money has been the prerogative of the State in the West almost from the moment it was invented in Asia Minor. Control of the production of money is a profitable enterprise, and because of its importance to the economy and military power of the State ( as represented by the person and will of an individual, or as the collective will of the people), it has remained in the control (at least theoretically) of the State ever since.

“Money talks,”as the saying goes—but what does it say? There is more to the story of money than simple profit. The designs, texts, and symbols on coins contain messages designed to be understood by the people using them. These messages represent the earliest form of mass produced communication in history. The fact that the same message could be transmitted from the ruling authority to the people without mediation is a critical milestone in history. This exhibit will highlight the development of the ‘language’ of symbols, images, and text used on coins produced in the western coinage tradition, which became the universal model for coinage over the course of the 20th century.

Last updated: 04/19/2003