The world’s first true gold coin. Having pioneered the refining process for separating electrum into pure silver and gold, the Lydians under King Croesus introduced a revolutionary bimetallic coinage system around 550 BC.

The gold Croesus stater, equal to ten of the corresponding silver staters, depicted a roaring lion facing off against a bull – perhaps representing the royal lion of Lydia leaping to attack its neighbouring Greek city states, symbolised by the bull of Hellenic Zeus.

This is a coin of the fabulously rich Croesus – the King of the Lydian people. Reigned between 560 and 547 BC, Croesus was renowned for his great wealth. His royal capital was at the city of Sardis in what is now central Turkey that stood on the River Pactolus.

BBC Radio 4 - A History of the World in 100 Objects, Old World, New Powers  (1100 - 300 BC), Gold Coin of Croesus

King Croesus is most famous not for being the last king of the Lydian empire, but for introducing the first pure silver and pure gold coins. Electrum (the gold and silver) was commonly found in the region which was used to mint coins. However, as the exact amounts of gold and silver in each coin varied, it was hard to determine an exact value for the coins.


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King Croesus solved this problem by minting coins in pure gold and pure silver. In fabric and design, these were not unlike the earliest electrum coins. The forepart of a lion was shown facing the forepart of a bull on the obverse (front), while the reverse (back) consisted of simple punches. These are one of the earliest coins of the world.

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