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Monday, February 28, 2011

Gold Stater Ancient Gold coin Update 4 - Early Greek Gold: Lydia

Gold Stater Ancient Gold Coin Update 4 - Early Greek Gold: Lydia

Croesus of Lydia was the first to separate electrum (the naturally occurring gold/silver alloy) into a bi-metal coinage standard of gold and silver. He determined a weight standard wherein one Gold Stater of about 10 grams would be equal to ten silver staters of about 10 grams - which works out to a roughly 10:1 standard. (The Lydian calculations were much more precise as they dealt in "grains." I won't go into the math here.). A limited quantities of these "Heavy Staters" were produced before the gold stater was reduced to about 8 grams, bringing the ration to about 13:1.

The image on both the gold and silver stater is the Fierce Lion Head attacking the cowering Bull head. I have a personal theory as to the nature of this image. To read it access my Solon Numismatics web page at

The Lydian gold stater was undoubtedly produced in great quantities as Croesus, at the time, controlled most of the extremely rich territory of Ionia (present day Black Sea region of Turkey). Though the image is constant, there were clearly several artists working at the Sardes mint, and the styles do vary. The gold coinage was also produced in fractions: trites (third staters) Hektes (sixth staters) on down to 1/48th.

The early "heavy" staters are very rare. In top grades (close to CH AU) they will bring north of $30,000, even in lower grades they are highly sought after. The prices keep rising.

The "light" staters are more plentiful. Yet even these, in decent quality, appear at auction no more than four to five times a year. They do come in mint state - and now run about $18 -20,000 in that condition. I have one in Choice Mint State (see picture above). I have not idea what that would be worth. These also come in the usual fractions. A very nice trite (Choice AU or MS) example sold at the Triton (CNG) auction in New York this year for $18,000.

It should be noted that the bi-metal coinage standard invented by Croesus endured for close to 2500 years. I have noted in previous articles how this standard transferred enormous power from the Tyrant to the private citizen - who could amass and trade currency at his own discretion, thus acquiring a certain amount of autonomy from the state. When Richard Nixon took the US off the gold standard in 1970, and made coins in worthless base metals that were given arbitrary trade values based on the dictates of the government, that power was taken back from the individual and transferred to back to the ruling Tyrants.

Next: Gold Stater update 5: Persian Coinage.

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