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First True Coin

IONIA. Uncertain mint. Ca. 670-660 BC. EL stater (14.32 gm). Field of striated lines, resembling ripples on water / Triple incuse punch, with narrow rectangular punch arranged vertically between two roughly square ones. Linzalone, "Electrum" 1013 (this coin). Cf. Weidauer 5 (trite), footnote to the British Museum specimen. Traite I 16, pl. i, 12. BMC Ionia 1. Extremely rare, one of only 12 known examples. Good Very Fine.

In the new books "Electrum and the Invention of Coinage" (Dennis McMillan, 2011), author Joe Linzalone presents a convincing case that this Ionian issue of circa 670-660 BC should be considered the first true coin type ever struck. Pre-weighed lumps of electrum, some marked with a rough punch, had been employed as a medium of exchange for some years before this issue, but they lacked anything that could be called an obverse "type" or design. The field of striated lines seen here, Linzalone theorizes, could evoke the ripples of water in the stream beds where natural electrum was found in Lydia and Ionia, where coinage originated; alternatively it could simply be an abstract design engraved into the anvil striking surface intended to hold the blank in position. However, Linzalone points out the striated fields were maintained for a while even after other design elements were added, indicated more than a simple mechanical function. In any case, in his early treatise on economics and money, Aristotle stated that the addition of an obverse image was the decisive step to converting bullion into coinage. The striated stater is of special importance as it is the highest denomination initially struck; all other denominations served as fractions of a stater (see next lot). Only 12 striated full-weight staters are known to exist, all survivors from the very dawn of coinage.

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Auction Dates
September, 2011
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