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Gold Stater

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The gold stater (lit. 'weight') is a Greek coin used throughout many regions of Greece as well as some neighboring areas of Europe as general currency. Originally a type of silver currency, its rudimentary form was that of silver ingots of a semi-ovoid shape which began to be used in trade and commerce in as early as the 8th century BC. By the 9th century, the ingots had slowly evolved into silver coins which would then be used throughout many Grecian regions and states until the latter part of circa 50 AD, where it would inspire much of the coinage of the whole of the European world, although by such a time, it would begin to be considered a size and shape of coin, and not a type of coinage by itself. [1]

The stater was first inspired by the Phoenician shekel, from which the weight of a stater was copied from. It was later borrowed by the Euboeans, and would then slowly find itself integrated into the general currency of many Greek states. The earliest mints that produced large quantities of staters were situated in Athens, where a standardized value for the stater was established at 4 drachms (tetradrachm) per one stater. Being one of the earliest types of coins and the forerunner of the Roman coin, the stater first standardized some of the basic aesthetics that have comprised coin production over the centuries. While staters are considered rudimentary coins owing to the relatively early date of their production, many examples of staters are actually highly ornate and detailed for their time, although the earliest examples were somewhat rustic in its appeal. The earliest types were possibly cast rather than struck, owing to the intaglio (raised) obverse and the usually hollow reverse side of the coin. Such examples are evident in Lydian coinage, where only the obverse side carries a symbol or a figure. Legends as well as dating would come much later into the picture.

Although most staters were made from the cheaper and more common silver, the earliest examples from Lydia and some parts of Greece were actually made from a natural gold-silver alloy known as electrum. [2] Many of these examples can be found in museum exhibits and personal collections today. Staters made from pure gold did not come until much later, when the process of gold refining was perfected at about the time of the Lydian king Croesus. [3] During his reign, he had commissioned coins that were made strictly from pure gold and silver, respectably, and thus began a standard monetary variance which would remain until the latter part of the 1600s when many countries would ultimately abandon the gold and silver standard and switch to fiat currency.

The most notable gold staters were the ones which were minted long after Croesus's death and dethronement. Cyrus the Great, after conquering Lydia, adopted the gold coin as his standard form of currency. [4] By around this time the gold stater was already a standard in many Grecian states, so much so that even Philip of Macedon, the father of future conqueror Alexander the Great would have numerous staters bearing his image made during, and after his lifetime. These gold staters would later be used in commerce, trade, as well as token payments for Celtic and Hybernian mercenaries inspiring them to eventually adopt and recreate the coinage so that by the time of their defeat by the Roman, they would already have had their own type of coinage which was similar to the then circulated Roman gold coins. Philip II of Macedon's staters alongside those of his son's – Alexander's – would make up much of the gold staters of their time, only to be adopted later by Romans, Celts, Britons, and some parts of the East (thanks to Cyrus and Xerxes). [5] During these times many exemplary staters of amazing size and quality were developed rivaling, and even surpassing the quality of the latter Roman coinage. Smaller denominations and fractional values of a stater would also come to be, many of which are now extremely rare. Today, gold staters are highly sought after collectibles that are prized even more than standard bullion coins owing to their rarity and historical value.

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Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for © 2012

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