The question of the world's oldest coin, the first coin,
has long been debated and is still very much debated today. In trying to answer the question, much depends on the
definition you use for "coin." All coins are money (doesn't include tokens and other exonumia) but not
all money is in the form of coinage. Much also depends on how you interpret the archeological and numismatic evidence
or whose interpretations you believe. And much depends on how definitive you feel the evidence needs to be before
you put forth or accept any given theory.
From examining the literature, the history, and the coins in detail, I believe that no coin type can stake a better
claim for being the world's oldest than the Lydian coin pictured above, called a third stater (or trite) but perhaps
the largest denomination of its type and without question the most common. This coin was minted around 600 BC in
Lydia, Asia Minor (current-day Turkey), a country in close proximity to both the civilizations of Mesopotamia,
from which ideas about money and much else originated, and the Greek colonies in Asia Minor, through which ideas
about coinage and much else spread.
The above coin is smaller in diameter than U.S. half dime but is thick as a pebble and weighs almost as much as
a U.S. quarter. It's made of electrum, an alloy of gold and silver called "white gold" in ancient times
(50-60 percent gold with these coins). At the time of its minting, it may have been worth about a month's subsistence,
a sizeable chunk of change. One of the many fascinating aspects of this coin is the mysterious sunburst above the
lion's eye. Another is the widespread debate among scholars about the coin's purpose and dating.
Click on "Oldest
Coin Article," here or below, for an in-depth
discussion of the "world's oldest coin."