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Gold Coins  that  Made  History     By Aila de la Rive, © MoneyMuseum

The first gold coin of all times was issued in the 7th century BC in Asia Minor; its "inventor" was the proverbially rich Lydian king Croesus. From then on, the series of famous gold coins can easily be carried on: over the Roman aurei and the Islamic dinars to the Swiss "Vreneli" and the American double eagles. Here, we introduce some of the gold coins that made monetary history.

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Kingdom of  Lydia,  Croesus  (560?-­‐546  BC),  Heavy  Stater      

 

Denomination: Mint  Authority:   Mint:   Year  of  Issue:   Weight  (g):   Diameter  (mm):   Material:   Owner:  

Heavy Gold  Stater   King  Croesus  of  Lydia   Sardis   -­‐561   10.46   17.0   Gold   Sunflower  Foundation  

For some reason, the proverbially rich Lydian king Croesus is often said to have invented coinage. This is not true, however. But Croesus does earn the merit of having invented a bimetallic currency. This gold stater issued by Croesus is very important for the history of coinage. It is a prototype, a forerunner of Croesus' later bimetallic coinage. This is recognizable by the little wart between the lion's nose and forehead; the lions on earlier Lydian electrum coins had warted noses too. This coin thus marks the transition between the earlier electrum-based and the later bimetallic currency.

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Persian Empire,  Achaemenids,  Darius  I  the  Great  (522-­‐486   BC),  Daric,  c.  510  BC,  Sardis      

  Denomination:   Mint  Authority:   Mint:   Year  of  Issue:   Weight  (g):   Diameter  (mm):   Material:   Owner:  

Daric Great  King  Darius  I  of  Persia   Sardis   -­‐510   8.32   14.0   Gold   Sunflower  Foundation  

The first Persian coins were in all likelihood issued by Darius, the second Great King of the Achaemenid Empire. The Greeks accordingly called them "darics." The coins bore the effigy of the Great King as an archer, for the art of archery was highly valued in Persia. The Persian darics were the most widespread coins of Antiquity. They were issued in enormous numbers and circulated from the Mediterranean to the Black and the Caspian Seas throughout the Near East to India.

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Kingdom of  Macedonia,  Alexander  III  the  Great  (336-­‐323  BC),   Stater,  330-­‐323  BC,  Amphipolis      

 

Stater King  Alexander  III  of  Macedon   Amphipolis   -­‐330   9   19.0   Gold   Sunflower  Foundation  

Denomination: Mint  Authority:   Mint:   Year  of  Issue:   Weight  (g):   Diameter  (mm):   Material:   Owner:  

This stater was issued by Alexander the Great. The obverse depicts the Greek goddess Athena wearing a Corinthian helmet, while the reverse shows a Nike, the Greek personification of victory. One of Alexander's many achievements was the establishment of a single currency in his huge realm. These "imperial coins" replaced the wide variety of local issues. Only the Romans were to achieve something like that in their empire again.

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Roman Empire,  Octavian  Augustus  (27  BC-­‐14  AD),  Aureus,  c.   2  BC-­‐1  AD,  Lyon      

 

Denomination: Mint  Authority:   Mint:   Year  of  Issue:   Weight  (g):   Diameter  (mm):   Material:   Owner:  

Aureus   Emperor  Augustus   Lyon   -­‐2   7.91   20.0   Gold   Sunflower  Foundation  

The aureus was the gold coin of the Roman Empire. It was issued from the late 3rd century BC until the early 4th century AD – only sporadically, at first, but then more and more often. Emperor Augustus, who is depicted on this aureus, fixed the value of the Roman gold coin on 25 denarii and 100 sesterces respectively. After that, the aureus remained the relatively constant base of the prospering Roman economy for some 200 years and during that time spread over the whole then-known world.

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Frankish Empire,  Merovinginians,  Theudebert  I  (533-­‐548),   Tremissis,  Metz?      

  Denomination:   Mint  Authority:   Mint:   Year  of  Issue:   Weight  (g):   Diameter  (mm):   Material:   Owner:  

Tremissis (1/3  Solidus)   King  Theudebert  I  of  Frankia   Metz?   533   1.29   12.789999961853027   Gold   Sunflower  Foundation  

With the coinage of the Frankish king Theudebert I, a new monetary era began in Central Europe: Theudebert was the first Germanic ruler to issue gold coins in his own name. With this he officially broke the century-old monopoly of the Roman emperors on gold coinage, and thus manifested his imperial ambitions vis-à-vis the Eastern Roman emperor Justinian. DN THEODEBERTVS VIC reads the inscrition on the obverse of this coin: Dominus Noster Theudebert Victor (Our Lord Theudebert, Victor).

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Umayyad Dynasty,  Abd  al-­‐Malik  (685-­‐705),  Dinar  83  AH   (702),  Damascus      

 

Denomination: Mint  Authority:   Mint:   Year  of  Issue:   Weight  (g):   Diameter  (mm):   Material:   Owner:  

Dinar Caliph  Abd  al-­‐Malik   Damascus   702   4.23   19.0   Gold   Sunflower  Foundation  

In 697 AD – the year 77 of the Islamic calendar – Caliph Abd al-Malik reformed the Islamic coinage. From then on did the Islamic coins not show pictures anymore; instead, they bore verses from the Koran. At that time, the dinar became the standard gold unit of the Caliphate. The great extension of the Islamic realm brought it about that they were soon issued in different sizes, weights and types. However, most of these dinars were of a very high fineness, so that they were used as trade coins outside the Islamic territories, too.

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India, Western  Ganga  Dynasty  (c.  300-­‐1000),  Pagoda,  c.   1050-­‐1183      

Denomination:   Mint  Authority:   Mint:   Year  of  Issue:   Weight  (g):   Diameter  (mm):   Material:   Owner:  

Pagoda Western  Ganga  Dynasty   Undefined  in  Mysore   1050   3.86   15.0   Gold   Sunflower  Foundation  

The pagoda was a South Indian gold coin that was issued in the 6th century already. This piece is a socalled elephant pagoda, is clear from the late 11 or the early 12th century; it was issued by the Ganga dynasty, whose heraldic animal the elephant was. The Ganga minted their gold coins mainly for trade with Indonesia and the Maldives. Pagodas were issued until the 19th century – not only by Indian dynasties, but also by the diverse colonial powers operating in India: the Netherlands, Denmark, France and Great Britain.

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Holy Roman  Empire,  Republic  of  Florence,  Fiorino  d'Oro,   1252-­‐1303      

Fiorino  d'oro   Republic  of  Florence   Florence   1252   3.51   21.0   Gold   Sunflower  Foundation  

Denomination: Mint  Authority:   Mint:   Year  of  Issue:   Weight  (g):   Diameter  (mm):   Material:   Owner:  

In the middle of the 13th century, the small but wealthy republic of Florence began to issue a gold coin which was to become so successful that it was soon copied throughout Europe. The coin's obverse bore a lily flower, the coat of arms of Florence. The reverse depicted the Florentine city saint John the Baptist. After the image of the lily, the coin was called "fiorino d'oro" in Italian (from Latin flos = flower, and oro = gold). Under the name of "floren," the fiorino d'oro became the archetype of many gold coins on the north side of the Alps from the 14th century. It was copied by the Popes as well as in France, Spain, Hungary, Bohemia, Silesia, in the Rhineland, England and the Netherlands.

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Republic of  Venice,  Giovanni  Dandolo  (1280-­‐1289),  Ducat   Undated,  after  1285,  Venice      

Ducat Doge  Giovanni  Dandolo   Venice   1285   3.55   19.600000381469727   Gold   Schweizerisches  Landesmuseum  Dep.  ZB  

Denomination: Mint  Authority:   Mint:   Year  of  Issue:   Weight  (g):   Diameter  (mm):   Material:   Owner:  

The ducat was the longest-lasting, the most wide-spread and stable European gold coin of all times. It was issued from 1284 in Venice. Due to Venice's trade with the Levant, the ducat spread throughout the eastern Mediterranean, and was in time imitated by diverse coinage authorities. In the course of the 15th century, it also prevailed in the western Mediterranean. After the annexation of Venice by Austria, the Hapsburgs continued to issue ducats until the 19th century. The obverse of the ducat bore the Venetian city saint Mark feoffing the kneeling Doge with the gonfalone, a symbol of power consisting of a pole with a cross. The inscription read: SIT TIBI XPE DATVS, QUAM TV REGIS ISTE DVCATVS (Let this be given to thee, O Christ, who rulest this duchy). The reverse showed Christ himself.

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Kingdom of  France,  Philip  VI  of  Valois  (1328-­‐1350),  Ecu  d'or      

  Denomination:   Mint  Authority:   Mint:   Year  of  Issue:   Weight  (g):   Diameter  (mm):   Material:   Owner:  

Ecu d'or   King  Philip  VI  of  France   Undefined   1337   4.51   29.719999313354492   Gold   Schweizerisches  Landesmuseum  Dep.  ZB  

The ecu d'or was the first French gold coin; it was issued around 1270 by King Louis IX. The name "ecu" means "shield," after the depiction of the French coat of arms on the obverse. The French kings issued ecus in many different variations until the middle of the 17th century. They circulated not only in France, but were popular all over Europe. The last ecus, minted under the Sun King Louis XIV, became the major trade coins of the Netherlands under the name of zonnekroon; in the German speaking lands they were known as Sonnenkronen (sun crowns).

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Kingdom of  France,  John  II  the  Good  (1350-­‐1364),  Franc  à   cheval,  1360      

 

1  Franc  à  cheval   King  John  II  of  France   Undefined   1360   3.51   30.0   Gold   Sunflower  Foundation  

Denomination: Mint  Authority:   Mint:   Year  of  Issue:   Weight  (g):   Diameter  (mm):   Material:   Owner:  

Three million écus d'or or 500,000 pound sterling – what an inconceivable sum of money! This was what King Edward III of England demanded as a ransom for the French King John the Good, who had been made prisoner in 1356. To pay for the ransom, France started to mint the franc à cheval. The coin was called "franc" because it was to bring freedom to the king (franc = French for free). "À cheval" derived from the coins image, which showed the king on a richly caparisoned horse, charging into freedom with his sword raised. This franc was the first franc coin of all times; after the French Revolution of 1789, the name was adopted for the new decimal French currency.

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Holy Roman  Empire,  Bishopric  of  Treves,  Kuno  II  of   Falkenstein  at  Minzenberg  (1362-­‐1388),  Gold  Gulden,  Deutz?      

 

Goldgulden Archbishop  Kuno  II  of  Falkenstein   Deutz?   1369   3.52   22.0   Gold   Sunflower  Foundation  

Denomination: Mint  Authority:   Mint:   Year  of  Issue:   Weight  (g):   Diameter  (mm):   Material:   Owner:  

In the Middle Ages, the German Empire was not a uniform currency area. But in 1354, the archbishops of Cologne, Mainz and Trevere agreed to henceforth issue their gold coins at the same values. The Cologne gulden that was created by this treaty was widely disseminated and became a forerunner of the later Rhenish Monetary Union. Its obverse bore the crest of the minting archbishopric, while the reverse depicted Saint Peter.

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Kingdom of  England,  Henry  VI  (1422-­‐1461),  Noble,  London      

Noble King  Henry  VI.  of  England   London   1422   6.47   34.0   Gold   Sunflower  Foundation  

Denomination: Mint  Authority:   Mint:   Year  of  Issue:   Weight  (g):   Diameter  (mm):   Material:   Owner:  

The noble was the first successful English gold coin. It was created in 1344 by Edward III to celebrate his naval victory over the French off Sluys, the harbor of Bruges, in 1340. The obverse depicted Edward himself, sword and shield in hands, thus declaring his readiness for battle. The object of his fight was the French throne, as the fleur-de-lis on his shield pointed out. By the end of the 14th century, the noble had gained acceptance as key currency in North Sea and Baltic Sea trade.

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Kingdom of  Spain,  Philip  II  (1580-­‐1598),  Double  Escudo   Undated,  Seville      

  Denomination:   Mint  Authority:   Mint:   Year  of  Issue:   Weight  (g):   Diameter  (mm):   Material:   Owner:  

2  Escudo   King  Philip  II  of  Spain   Seville   1580   6.72   26.0   Gold   Sunflower  Foundation  

In 1537, Charles V of Spain introduced the escudo, a coin which soon became the fundamental gold unit of the entire Spanish realm. Some thirty years later, Charles's successor Philip II initiated the production of double escudos. This gold coin soon spread as highly popular trade coin throughout Europe. In Switzerland, it was copied under the name of duplone, in Italy as doppia, in northern Germany as pistole, in Prussia as Wilhelm d'or and Friedrich d'or respectively. Even the French King Louis XIV, who otherwise tended to reject anything to do with the Hapsburgs, introduced in 1640 in the Louis d'or as an imitation of the double escudo. And, after their liberation from Spain, the double escudo continued to be issued in most former Spanish colonies of South America under the name of doblado.

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Kingdom of  England,  William  III  and  Mary  II  (1689-­‐1702),  5   Guineas  1692,  London      

 

5 Guineas   King  William  III  and  Queen  Mary  II  of  England   London   1692   41.28   38.0   Gold   Sunflower  Foundation  

Denomination: Mint  Authority:   Mint:   Year  of  Issue:   Weight  (g):   Diameter  (mm):   Material:   Owner:  

The guinea, introduced in 1663, was the principal gold coin of England until 1816. It took its name from the country of Guinea on the west coast of Africa, whose rich gold deposits the English exploited for their coinage. Along with the introduction of the guinea went a decisive innovation in the minting technique: mechanical coining superseded manufacturing by hand. At the same time the coins were knurled and an inscription was added on the edge, which eliminated clipping and hence the diminution of the coin's value. The obverse of this guinea depicts the English kings William III and Mary II, who reigned the land with equal rights. The shield on the reverse is the coat of arms of the House of Nassau-Orange, from which William descended.

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Russian Empire,  Peter  I  the  Great  (1682-­‐1725),  Double  Ruble   1718,  Moscow,  Red  Mint      

 

2  Rubles   Tsar  Peter  I   Moscow   1718   4.1   21.0   Gold   Sunflower  Foundation  

Denomination: Mint  Authority:   Mint:   Year  of  Issue:   Weight  (g):   Diameter  (mm):   Material:   Owner:  

Tsar Peter I was an important man for Russia. Determined, often reckless, he westernized and modernized his empire, and established Russia as an important player in European politics. Among other reorganizations, Peter the Great conducted a monetary reform. He turned the obsolete Russian coinage into the most modern currency of the world – Russia was the first country with a decimal coinage system. Along with copper and silver coins there were diverse gold coins. The golden double ruble bore the tsar's image on the obverse, while the reverse depicted the crucified Saint Andrew, the patron of the Russian fleet.

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United Kingdom,  George  III  (1760-­‐1820),  Sovereign  1817,   London      

Sovereign King  George  III  of  England   London   1817   7.98   22.0   Gold   Sunflower  Foundation  

Denomination: Mint  Authority:   Mint:   Year  of  Issue:   Weight  (g):   Diameter  (mm):   Material:   Owner:  

In 1816, Great Britain enacted a coinage reform that changed the monetary policy of the first economic world power radically. After long years of shortage – first of silver and then of gold –, the British government realized that the stability of the currency could only be guaranteed if rated after one single metal. Hence the golden sovereign was created as the new British standard coin. It corresponded to one pound sterling and was minted in huge quantities. The rest of the currency became fiat money, money thus whose intrinsic value is lower than its face value.

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Japanese Empire,  Meiji  Period,  Mutsuhito  (1867-­‐1912),  Yen   1870      

1 Yen   Emperor  Mutsuhito  of  Japan   Undefined   1871   1.7   13.0   Gold   Sunflower  Foundation  

Denomination: Mint  Authority:   Mint:   Year  of  Issue:   Weight  (g):   Diameter  (mm):   Material:   Owner:  

In the year 4 of the Meiji period – according to Western calendar: 1871 – the Japanese government instituted a new currency act. From then on, the yen was to be the only means of payment in Japan. The new currency was divided decimally: 1 yen equaled 100 sen or 1,000 rin. The first golden yens were issued in the same year. They were intended for domestic use, whereas the silver yens were to be used for foreign trade. This golden yen was minted in 1871 and hence belongs to the very first emission.

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Swiss Confederation,  20  Francs  (Vreneli)  1897,  Bern      

20  Franken  (Vreneli)   Swiss  Confederation   Berne   1897   6.45   22.0   Gold   Sunflower  Foundation  

Denomination: Mint  Authority:   Mint:   Year  of  Issue:   Weight  (g):   Diameter  (mm):   Material:   Owner:  

The coinage law that the Swiss Confederation decreed in 1850 did not intend the minting of gold coins. Switzerland started to strike such coins in the 1870s nevertheless. The most famous Swiss gold coins was the "Vreneli," which was issued at values of 10, 20 and 100 francs. However, when the Vreneli was introduced in 1897, experts met it with scathing criticism. Many of them objected the idea of Switzerland being represented by a young girl; they would rather have their Helvetia as a beautiful woman and mother of middle age, they said. The Swiss Numismatic Review even wrote, "It would have been better for our country to be allegorized by Wilhelm Tell or the men who swore the oath at the Rütli." Regardless of that, the Swiss population met the Vreneli with great approval, and holds those coins in high esteem until this day.

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United States  of  America,  20  Dollars  1916  (Double  Eagle,  St.   Gaudens  Type),  San  Francisco      

  Denomination:   Mint  Authority:   Mint:   Year  of  Issue:   Weight  (g):   Diameter  (mm):   Material:   Owner:  

20 Dollars  (Double  Eagle)   United  States  of  America   San  Francisco   1916   34.44   35.0   Gold   Schenkung  

At the turn of the 20th century, the United States got new gold coins. The obverse design of the 20 dollar-coin featured Miss Liberty, the personification of freedom, with a torch and an olive branch in front of the rising sun. On the reverse, an eagle is flying over the sun. The dies for the new gold coins were cut by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, a sculptor and medalist. The first of his gold coins appeared in 1907, the year of the artist's death. The coins were named after their creator and the design on the reverse: the golden 10 dollars (with the head of an Indian on the obverse) were called Saint-Gaudens Eagles and the golden 20 dollar-coins became known as Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles. The artist's mark can be found on the obverse underneath the date.

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Gold coins that made history