HOME AND SCHOOL
A SHORT HISTORY OF COINS
WITH 125 ILLUSTRATIONS
E. P. BUTTON & COMPANY
31 WEST TWENTY-THIRD STREET
Printed in Great Britain
THIS little book is founded on an Introductory
Address which I had the honour of delivering
some years ago, as first President of the Institute
of Bankers. It was, however, almost rewritten
last year as a Lecture delivered at the London
Mr Magnus has done me the honour of sug-
gesting that it should be included as one of the
volumes in the Home and School Library, which
he is editing for Mr Murray.
The second part is new. It deals with the
weights of coins ; the standards adopted ; the
means taken from time to time to secure a satis-
factory currency ; and, I regret to add, those
also perhaps even more numerous by which
Kings and Parliaments have attempted to secure
a temporary and dishonourable advantage, by
debasing the standard and reducing the weight
of the coins.
In this respect we may fairly claim that our
own Sovereigns and Parliament are able to show
(with a few exceptions) an unusually honourable
In spite of all that has been written on the
subject, the principles on which our currency is
based are very little understood.
We frequently hear Sir Robert Peel's celebrated
question, " What is a Pound ? " put forward as if
it were some abstruse and mysterious conundrum,
instead of having been long ago clearly answered,
and determined by Act of Parliament.
I have also endeavoured to explain in simple
language the law which regulates the issue of
I have to thank Sir John Evans, Mr Barclay
Head, and Mr Grueber for much valuable assist-
ance. Mr Grueber has also been so very kind
as to look through the proof-sheets.
I am also indebted to the Governor and Court
of Directors of the Bank of England for some
interesting particulars bearing on the Evolution
of the Bank-Note in its present form.
HIGH ELMS, DOWN,
KENT, February 1902.
I. THE ORIGIN OF MONEY ... I
II. THE COINAGE OF BRITAIN . . -42
I. WEIGHTS OF COINS . . .89
II. BANK-NOTES AND BANKING . . IO2
APPENDIX . . . . .137
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Chinese Pu Money ..... 5
Chinese Knife Money ..... 7
Later Chinese Knife Money . . . .8
Chinese Cash ...... 9
Lydia-Babylonic Stater . . . .15
Stater of Pheidon . . . . .16
Gold Stater of Croesus . . . .17
A Daric . . . . . .17
Stater of Sybaris . . . . .19
Stater of Athens . . . . .20
Stater of Cnossus . . . . .20
Tetradrachm of Selinus . . . .22
Decadrachm of Syracuse . . . 23
Didrachm of Metapontum . . . .24
Stater of Philip . . . . .25
Stater of Alexander . . . . .26
Tetradrachm of Lysimachus . . . .27
Tetradrachm of Tyre . . . . .27
Romano-Campanian Didrachm . . .28
Denarius ...... 29
Julius Caesar Denarius . . . .30
M. Junius Brutus . . . . .31
Denarius of Cleopatra . . . . . 31
Denarius of Augustus . . . . .32
Denarius of Augustus . . . . -33
Denarius of Tiberius . . . . .34
Lepton of Pontius Pilate . . . -35
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
55-56 Sestertius of Vespasian
57-58 Sestertius of Antoninus Pius
59-60 Aureus of Marcus Aurelius .
61-62 Shekel .
63-64 Tetradrachm of Simon Barcochab
65-66 Dirhem of Haroun al Raschid
67-68 Ancient British Stater
69-70 Ancient British Stater
71-72 Ancient British Stater
73-74 Coin of Tincommius
75-76 Stater of Cunobeline
77-78 Anglo-Saxon Sceat .
79-80 Penny of Offa
81-82 Penny of Alfred
83-84 Penny of Plegmund .
85-86 Penny of Canute
87-88 Penny of Edward the Confessor
89-90 Penny of William the Conqueror
91-92 Angel of Edward IV.
93-94 Rose Noble of Edward IV. .
95-96 The First Shilling .
97-98 The First Sovereign
99-100 Shilling of Henry VIII.
101-102 Groat of Henry VIII.
103-104 Shilling of Edward VI.
105-106 Half-Crown of Edward VI. .
107-108 Shilling of Philip and Mary
109-110 Crown of Elizabeth .
HI-II2 Unite of Charles I. .
113-114 Half-Crown of Cromwell
115-116 Guinea of Charles II.
119-120 Ryal of Mary, Queen of Scots
1 21-122 James II., Gunmoney
123-124 Irish Halfpenny
125 Exchequer .Tally
A SHORT HISTORY OF COINS
THE ORIGIN OF MONEY
IN early times the exchange of commodities was
carried on by barter. Homer, in the seventh book
of the Iliad, mentions that when
From Lemnos Isle a numerous fleet had come,
Freighted with wine . . .
All the other Greeks
Hastened to purchase, some with brass, and some
With gleaming iron ; some with hides, cattle, or slaves.
Barter, however, ( was a slow and cumbersome
process. It was open to two great objections.
[ Those who wished to buy might have nothing
which those who wished to sell cared to take.
in exchange ; and secondly, it would require
2 THE ORIGIN OF MONEY
much time and haggling to decide the relative
values of the different articles.
Hence it was gradually found that trade
would be greatly facilitated by fixing on some
object or objects which might be used as standards
of value, and might be accepted, not for use,
but to be again exchanged.
In countries where there were no true coins
various other things have served as a standard of
value. In the Hudson's Bay Territory beavers'
skins have long been used in this manner. In
ancient Europe pattlfy were the usual medium of
exchange, whence the Latin word pecunia (money,
from pecus, cattle). In our own language the
word "cattle," or "chattel," came to include all
property. In the Zend-Avesta the payment of
physicians is calculated in the same way, but
comparatively few realise that when we pay
our Doctor his fee we are doing the same
thing, for our word "Jhe^ is the old word vieh,
which in German still retains the sense of
Homer* laughs at the folly of Glaucus, who
exchanged his golden armour, worth one hun-
dred oxen, for the bronze armour .of Diomede,
worth only nine oxen. In Iliad xxiii. 703,
Achilles offers as a prize to the conqueror in
* Iliad vi. 234,
the funeral games in honour of Patroclus, a large
tripod which the Greeks valued among them-
selves at twelve oxen ; and offers to the loser a
female slave valued at four oxen.
In Africa and the East Indies shells _are, and
long have been, used for the same purpose. We
even find indications that shells- once served
as money in China, for as M. Biot, in his
interesting memoir on Chinese Currency, has
pointed out, the words denoting purchase and
sale, riches, goods, stores, property, prices, cheap,
dear, and many others referring to money and
wealth, contain the ideographic sign denoting
the word "shell." Indeed, Wangmang, who
usurped the Imperial throne about 14 A.D., wish-
ing to return to the ancient state of things,
attempted, among other changes, to bring into
circulation five different varieties of shells of an
On the whole, however, pieces of jrieial were
found most convenient for the purpose. They
were easily carried, easily identified, and easily
divided ; they did not decay, and could easily
be weighed. Hence names for weights often
passed into names for coins the^ shekel, the
livre, the lire, the pound, and so ony
The origin of money was well described by
Aristotle. " It became necessary," he says, " to
4 THE ORIGIN OF MONEY
think of certain commodities, easily manageable,
safely transportable, and of which the uses
are so general and so numerous, that they, in-
sured the certainty of always obtaining for them
the articles wanted in exchange. The metals,
particularly iron and silver and several others,
exactly correspond to this description. They
were employed, therefore, by general agreement
as the ordinary standard of value and the com-
mon measure of exchange, being themselves ^
estimated at first by their bulk and weight, and
afterwards stamped, in order to save the trouble
of measuring and weighing them/^
Gold, silver, and copper are the metals which
have been generally used as money, vlron, indeed,
is said to have been used in Sparta, under the
laws of Lycurgus ; but, in this case, there is no
reason to suppose that it was ever coined. It
was also used, according to Caesar, amongst the
ancient Britons, in the form of bars. Pollux
mentions that the inhabitants of Byzantium, in.
ancient times, used iron for coins instead of
copper, and so have the Japanese ; but, on the .
whole, this metal is too heavy in proportion to /
LCoTns of tin are reported to have been struck by
Dibnysius of Syracuse, and subsequently in Gaul,
during the reigns of Septimus Severus and Cara-
CHINESE SHIRT MONEY 5
calla, but they appear to have been almost immedi-
ately abandoned again. Cast coins of this metal
wej;e in use among the ancient Britons.f
C Platinum was tried in Russia, but was found
unsuitable ; lead is still used in Burmah ; nickel
in Belgium, the United States, and Germany;
and since 1869 we have struck some nickel pence
and halfpence for Jamaica^J
The similarity, however, of such corns to those
of silver constitutes a serious inconvenience.
is also said by some to have been at one
FlGS. 1-2. Early Chinese Pu money, B.C. 700. (Natural size.)
time used for subsidiary coinage in Egypt and
in Sicily^ It is probable, however, that these
objects were merely coin weights.
6 THE ORIGIN OF MONEY
y A curious illustration of the passage from a
* state of barter to the use of money occurred in
China.* Knives and pieces of cloth had long
been used as in some measure a standard of
value, almost as grey shirting is in India even
now. About the twelfth century B.C. it occurred
to the Chinese government that for purposes of ex-
change it would be an advantage to substitute for
various objects in common use, such as knives,
pieces of cloth, hoes, sickles, spades, etc., etc.,
^small metal models which might represent the
objects themselves. This they did, and there are
two principal kinds of coins the " pu " coins,
roughly resembling a shirt (Figs. 1-2), and the
" tao " or knife coins (Figs. 3-4), which are in
the form of a knife. The word "pu" means
cloth, and " tao " a knife. The specimen repre-
sented in Figs. 1-2 is probably of about 700 B.C.,
but the dates of early Chinese coins are some-
what uncertain. Figs. 3-4 represent a " knife "
coin. These are also of very early date. The
one figured is referred to the Tchou Dynasty
about B.C. 300. On the obverse is "Currency
of Tsi-moh City," and on the reverse " Three
ten Star." But those forms were of course very
inconvenient, and the blade was gradually short-
ened (Figs. 5-6), while the end of the handle,
* Terrien de Lacouperie. Catalogue of Chinese Coins.
CHINESE KNIFE MONEY
FlGS. 3-4. Chinese Knife money ; length, 7 in.
weight, 740 grs.
;8 THE ORIGIN OF MONEY
which was pierced by a hole, so that the coins
might be strung on a cord, was enlarged. The
inscription is " Yh tao ping wutsun," i.e., One tao
equal to 5000 (cash).
FIGS. 5-6. Later Chinese Knife money, 7-22 A.D. ;
weight, 505 g rs *
Finally the blade disappeared, and the circular
end of the handle alone remained, with the hole
in the middle, for, as the Chinese said, money
ORIGIN OF CASH 9
which is meant tcT roll round the world should
itself be round. This change took place about
VgQQ B.C., and thus originated the form still in use
and known as " Cash." * The coin bears a mark
FlGS. 7-8. Chinese Cash, 680 A.D. ; weight, 59 grs.
like a new moon. This originated in an accident
very characteristic of China. In the time of the
Empress Wente'k, 620 A.D., a model in wax of
a proposed coin was brought for Her Majesty's
inspection. In taking hold of it she left on it the
impression of her thumb-nail, and the impression
has in consequence not only been a marked
characteristic of Chinese coins for hundreds of
years, but has even been copied on those of
Japan and Corea. Even now the Chinese have
no coins of gold or silver, but only of bronze.
* Round coins seem to have been used somewhat earlier
in certain provinces, but the origin of the " cash," and the
general use of round coin, seem to be that given above.
10 THE ORIGIN OF MONEY
Silver indeed they use, but only as uncoined
metal, passing by weight.
The Persians also used at one time scimitar-
shaped pieces of metal as money. In the West,
however, the earliest money was more or less
Money seems to us now so obvious a conveni-
ence, and so much, I might almost say, a necessity
of commerce, that it appears almost inconceivable
that those who erected the Pyramids and sculp-
tured the Sphinx, who built the temples of Ipsam-
boul and Karnac, of Babylon and Nineveh, should
have been ignorant of coins. Yet it appears certain
that this was the case.
As regards the commercial and banking systems
of ancient Egypt and Assyria, we are almost
entirely without information. The standard of
value in Egypt seems to have been the "outen "
or " ten " of copper (94-96 grammes), which were
in the form of bricks, and, like the Aesrude of the
Romans, were estimated by weight. The copper
was obtained from the mines of Mount Sinai,
which were worked by King Dzezer of the
Third Dynasty as early as 4000 B.C. Gold and
silver appear to have been also used, though less
frequently ; like copper, they were sometimes in
the form of bricks, but generally in rings, resem-
bling the ring money of the ancient Celts, which is
MONEY AND THE OLD TESTAMENT 11
said to have been employed in Ireland down to
the twelfth century, and still holds its own in the
interior of Africa. This approximated very nearly
to the character of money, but it wanted what the
Roman lawyers called " the law " and " the form."
Neither the weight nor the pureness was guaran-
teed by any public authority.
I have often wondered how they got on without
cojnSjjmdeyen without bankers. Such a state of
things must have been very inconvenient.
n ancient Babylonia and Assyria, as in Egypt,
the precious metals, and especially silver, circulated
as uncoined ingots. They were readily taken,
indeed, but taken by weight and verified by the
balance like any other merchandise.
There are, however, several passages in our
/ translation of the Old Testament, which might
lead us to carry back the use of coin too far.
\. Thus in the I7th chapter of Genesis, in our
version, we find among the commands given to
Abraham, " He that is eight days old shall be
circumcised ... he that is born in the house, and
bought with money of any stranger." The word
here translated " money " is in the original keseph ;
in the Septuagint it is correctly rendered by
v apyvpiovy and in the Vulgate argentum ; in fact, it
ihpuld have been translated " silver," not " money."
Again, in Genesis xx. 16, we are told, " And unto
12 THE ORIGIN OF MONEY
Sarah he said, Behold I have given thy brother a
thousand pieces of silver." The same expression
is repeated in chap, xxxvli. 28. Here the word
"pieces" suggests money, but probably it only
meant pieces of a certain weight. The same
observation applies to the statement in chap, xxiii.,
where Abraham bought the cave of Machpelah as
a burial place for Sarah, and he "weighed to
Ephron the silver, four hundred shekels of silver,
current money with the merchants." Here it will be
observed that the word money is in italics, imply-
ing that it is not in the original. It is obvious
that silver was used by weight, the word " shekel "
meaning originally a weight, like our pound, and
afterwards, like the pound, being used for a coin.
f The word " money," indeed, primarily implies
coin. It is said to take its origin from the fact
that the Early Roman coins were struck in, or near,
the Temple of Juno Mooeta. Juno received this
name, according to Cicero, from the verb moneo,
because she advised the" Romans to sacrifice a sow
to Cybele to avert an earthquake. . Suidas, how-
ever, derives it from the encouraging advice she
gave them in their war against Pyrrhus.
/^Neither of these derivations seems very satis-
factory. ' But, however Juno acquired the name of
Moneta, it is evident that the name of Moneta was
given to money because it was struck in, or
ORIGIN OF COINS 13
near, her temple, and hence that it primarily
implies "coin," and that wealth is a secondary /
Before the invention of true coins,, bars of silver
appear to have been used in the form of spits
or skewers,, six of which were termed a " drachma,"
literally a handful, w r hich then came afterwards to
be used as a name for a coin.
The earliest Western coinage was either that of"^\
Lydia, or of Pheidon, struck in ^Egina. The claims
of Pheidon, King of Argos, to have made this
useful invention rest on a passage in the Parian
marble. It is not, however, very clear,, and if
Pheidon made this invention, we should have
expected his coins to have been struck in his own /
city of Argos, and not at ^Egina.
We may then, I think, probably accept the
distinct statement of Herodotus * that, under
the illustrious dynasty of the Mermnadse, the
" Lydians were the first of all nations we know
of" [observe the caution of the great father of
history] " that introduced the. act of coining gold
In ancient Greece, as now, the right of coinage
was prerogative of the sovereign. And here we
find a curious difference between the Bao-fAeJ? and
The former coined in his own name,
* Book I., par. 94.
14 THE ORIGIN OF MONEY
but the Tvpawoi, however absolute, never did so.*
Their money was issued in the name of the people.
It would seem that the mode of coining was
by placing the piece of heated metal on an anvil,
then putting the die upon it, and striking the
upper side of the die with a hammer.
Ancient coining implements, though very
rare, have occasionally been discovered. Sir John
Evans has described one found at Avenches
in Switzerland. "This die," he says, "which
was intended for striking the obverse of one
of the Helvetian degenerate imitations of the
stater of Philip (Figs. 29-30), consists of a disc
of bronze inlaid in a cylindric block of iron.
The surface of the die is concave, so as to
produce the convexity of surface so common
among the coins of this class, and one reason
for this concavity of the die appears to have
been that the coins were struck from nearly
spherical pieces of metal, which were heated and
prevented from rolling in their place by the
concavity of the die."
The simplicity and portability of this apparatus, /
and the fact that the coins were hand-made, \
accounts for the number of mints and moneyers ~A_
under our early kings, and this primitive process
* With one or two exceptions, such as Alexander of Pheras,
and Dionysius of Heracleia.
THE EARLIEST COINS 15
continued in use until the invention of the mill
and the screw in 1561. The new method was not,
however, at first supposed to work well,, and was /
given up until 1662, when it was finally adopted. ^
In this short history it is, of course, impossible
to mention more than a few of the more interest-
ing coins ; even in the case of our English series,
on which I propose to dwell rather more in
detail. The number and variety of coins is
indeed immense ; in a single reign, that of
Elizabeth, there were no less than 20 denom-
inations of money some of them of scarce
I will now proceed to the coins themselves.
The earliest coins we have (Figs. 9-10) are
Lydian, and oval in form. They are perhaps
FlGS. 9-10. Lydia-Babylonic Stater, dr. B.C. 700 ; electrum ;
weight, 167 grs.
stamped ingots rather than true coins,' r for one
side presents merely a striated surface. The
reverse presents three incuse depressions, the
16 THE ORIGIN OF MONEY
two outer ones square, the one in the centre
oblong, and enclosing some animal or other
ornament. They consist of electrum, a mixture
of gold and . silver, and were probably struck
about B.c: 700, in the reign of Gyges.
They were known as staters, from a Greek
word signifying " standard," and the legal weight
FlGS. 11-12.- Stater of Pheidon, King of Argos and ^Egina,
dr. B.C. 700 ; silver ; weight, 194 grs.
was about 167 grains, or 220 grains, depending
on whether the Babylon ic or Phoenician standard
The coins of Pheidon, King of Argos (Figs.
11-12), are little, if at all, later.. They are of
silver, were struck in /Egina, and are irregular in
form, with a tortoise, the symbol of Astarte, the
Phoenician goddess of trade, on one side, and on
the other merely an incuse square made by the
upper of the two dies, between which the "-flan,"
or plain piece of metal, was placed. The coinage
PERSIAN COINS 17
consisted of the obol, 3 obol piece, 6 obols or
drachma, and double drachma. The drachma
originally weighed 93 grains, but was gradually
reduced to 66.
Figs. 13-14 represent a gold stater of Croesus,
FlGS. 13-14. Gold Stater of Croesus ; weight, 124 grs.
King of Lydia, B.C. 568-554, celebrated for his
wealth. The obverse represents the fore-parts of
a lion and a bull, face to face. The reverse is
simply two incuse squares.
FlGS. 15-16. A Daricj gold; weight, 130 grs.
The next illustration (Figs. 15-16) is a Persian
" Dark." The name is derived from dara, a king.
It is a coin of Darius (B.C. 521-485), and repn(|sents
the great king holding a bow and arrow. The
18 THE ORIGIN OF MONEY
daric weighed : about 1 30 grains. The word
"daric" is unfortunately rendered a "drachma"
in our translation of the Old Testament*
The earliest known inscribed coin is a Phoeni-
cian stater of Halicarnassus. On the obverse
is $ai/o9 e/ou 2^/xa, " I am the sign of Phanes,"
and a stag feeding. The reverse is an oblong
sinking between two square sinkings. There has
been considerable difference of opinion as to the
meaning of the word Phanes. Some have regarded
it as the name of a local banker ; others that it
signifies " the shining one," a name for Artemis ;
others that it refers to a certain Phanes who was
a high official of Amasis, King of Egypt, but
entered into the service of Cambyses, King of
Persia, and assisted in the invasion 'of Egypt in
B.C. 525. The coin, however, would seem to be
of a slightly earlier date.
In these earliest coins it will be observed that
one side is left plain, or bears only the mark of
the anvil The next improvement was to work
the head of the die into the form of some
object which thus appeared in concave on the
coin. Tne oldest coins of most of the Greek
cities of southern Italy are ' remarkable for hav-
ing the type of the obverse side repeated in ' an
incuse, or sunk form, on the reverse.
* Nehemiah vii. 70.
COINS OF ATHENS 19
Figs. 17-18 are a stater of the celebrated city
Sybaris, dr. B.C. 550, showing on both sides the
figure of a bull, with the head reverted, and the
initial letters of Sybaris, 2i/, below. This style
FlGS. 17-18. Stater of Sybaris ; silver ; -weight, 126 grs.
is not considered to have lasted after B.C. 500.
Sybaris itself was destroyed by Croton in 510.
It is evident, however, that if two dies are to
be made, it is useless to repeat the same design,
and that the second surface may be better
utilised. Athens seems to have been the first
to realise this.
Figs. 19-20 illustrate the typical coinage of
Athens about B.C, 500, with the head of Athene on
one side, and the owl and an olive spray, the
emblems of Athens, on the other. The Athenian
coinage is singularly rude ; it is supposed that
these coins became known throughout the Greek
THE ORIGIN OF MONEY
islands, and that it was considered unadvisable
to change the type lest the circulation should be
FlJS. 19-20. Stater of Athens ; silver; weight, 265 grs.
affected. In these archaic coins the eye is
always drawn as if seen from the front, even
when the face is in profile.
FIGS. 21-22. Stater of Cnossus ; silver; B.C. 480-450;
weight, 176 grs.
Lord Liverpool long ago said of the 'Athenian
coinage that it was a case in which " the affecta-
THE MINOTAUR AND LABYRINTH 21
tion of an archaic style of work is easily distin-
guished from the rudeness of remote antiquity."