MONEY Past and Present

Money as a medium of exchange in barter and trade has always in all times found expression in some form or other from necessity thereof. In the remotest periods, before gold or silver were generally in use, it took the form of animals, oxen, sheep, lambs, shells, etc. Thus we find cattle used in Germany, leather in Rome, sugar in the West Indies, shells in Siam, lead in Burmah, platinum in Russia, tin in Great Britain, iron and nails in Scotland, brass in China, and finally copper, silver and gold the world over.

If we look up the sacred writings in quest of the earliest use of money quoted therein, we will find that the Bible mentions gold as a medium of value in the very first book of Moses, which according to modern synchronology, would be about 4,000 years before the time of Christ, or almost 6,000 years ago. Namely, Genesis, Chapter II, 10, 11, 12.“And a river went out of Eden, and the land of Haviliah, where there is gold, and the gold of that land is good.” Hence Adam and Eve could have found gold in Haviliah just the same as we do in the Yukon today. Immediately thereafter brass and iron are mentioned, Genesis, Chapter IV, 22. “And Zilah she bare Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron.” Tubal-Cain, son of Iamech, a descendant of Cain, apparently was the first nun to shape metals into articles of use and probably our very first goldsmith and jeweler.

Silver is first mentioned in the Bible in the time of Abram, Genesis, Chapter XIII, 2, “Abram was very rich in rattle, in silver and gold.”The earliest mention of the word “money” Occurs Genesis, Chapter XVII, 12, 13, 23, “He that is born in the house or bought with money.”The first use of earrings and bracelets appears in Genesis,Chapter XXIV, 22, 30, Rebekah at the well, “The man took a garden earring of half a shekel weight and two for her hands of ten shekels weight in gold.” So we find that the ancient Hebrews and their measure of value expressed by the shekel, and these shekels were weighted out, not counted. Apparently the early money did not have an equal weight, as the ancient tombs of Egypt will show traces of scales engraved on their walls, signifying the wealth of their owners as weighed in shekels and lambs, for lambs were really the chief article of barter among the Egyptians, and from this weighing originated the term shekel in coinage, shekel meaning in Hebrew “to weigh.” The Old Testament further enlightens us that the shekels were of three different metals, gold, silver and brass.

Rebekah at the well certainly was the first woman of record to wear bracelets and earrings, thus originating a habit which has never since been improved upon except as to the additional amount of valuable gems, such an pearls and diamonds, being added to the gold earrings, as first worn. This habit grew and extended also to anklets in later periods, possibly from a custom of saving, as there were no investments in those days and when a family possessed much gold it was shaped into rings and anklets and fastened upon arms or limbs until necessity compelled its removal for other exchanges, when it was weighed out at so many shekels worth. That this habit of wearing values in bands and rings in the ages of antiquity was the first conception of the idea of saving, and that this saving led to more rings and eventually developed into their use as money, may be inferred from the fact that ho much “ring money” was found in Great Britain when the Romans under Caesar invaded that country, this ring money having degenerated from gold to brass and iron among the people of that country before the English kings began to coin money.

Gold and silver originally being in lumps, nuggets and bars, were in this manner weighed out in the making of payments for commercial transactions, but there being no certainty of the purity of the metal, no convenience in size, the lumps being too large, necessity arose for smaller amounts and divisions, which were gradually made, vouched for, and a die stump invented which was punched by hand on one side of the smaller lumps of gold and silver, thereby attesting to its purity and value, and so originated the first acts of coinage, which ¡a generally attributed far back in ancient history to Lydia, a country in Asia Minor, celebrated for its mineral wealth and gold, where probably the first gold states were thus stamped with the symbol of a lion pressed on one side of the coin. Silver was first coined in these crude lumps on the island of Ægina, where the ancient Greeks stamped a turtle on their first silver coins over 700 years before the Christian era.

The actual coinage of money now being an accomplished and accepted fact, it was furthered along by the Greek nations, who, after stamping thereon turtles, owls, images and other objects of their divinity, finally with Alexander the Great, began to impress upon their coins crude portraits or heads of living persons and rulers, leaving to us thereby no uncertain means of tracing their lineage from time to time, an indestructible evidence to posterity of their existence, their appearance, and their advancement. This method was kept up and improved upon by the Romans, who became proficient in the art, in consequence of which we have today an immense number of Homan coins and silver Denarii, preserved for centuries, nerving as a complete record of the ruling families of the Caesars, established by a close study of the features and inscriptions impressed upon their coinage.

After the decline and fall of the Roman empire, the coinage of money from an artistic standpoint began to deteriorate, and from the Byzantine period, beginning with Anastasius in the fourth century, until almost a thousand years later, money became crude in form and expression, unequal in shape or value, lacking design and execution, both Christian and Barbarian coins being in use, and there are but few well struck specimens left to us, which few are mostly gold. The early English Kings coined pennies, and there are some existing of possibly the first attempts under Egbert and Cuthred, Kings of Kent, A. D. 765 to 806, but they are crude and uncertain. William the Conqueror, in 1066, issued fair specimens of pennies, and Edward I, in 1280, issued a new coinage of pennies, half pence and farthings, but it remained for Queen Elizabeth of England to set a step forward when she introduced the first experiment of milling money, instead of hammering, and also the establishment in 1800 of a Colonial silver currency for use of the East Italian Company. After this period coins began to get more of an even roundness and shape, and all the large pieces, such as silver dollars or crowns, that we have of England, Germany or Saxony from the 16th century on, snow again the gradual improvement and symmetry in the artistic work of coinage.

Chinese coins date back perhaps 700 years before the Christian era, although the Chinese assert a coinage for forty centuries, and seem to have an organization all of their own, being different from those of all other countries, yet created through the same necessity of having some metal of a certain value to use as a mod Him of exchange in trade. This metal, etc., mostly of brone, finally developed into the familiar round brass coin, with a square hole in the center called “cash,” which has been in use for centuries, the peculiar hieroglyphics thereon being generally the emperor’s name, authority, and the value, which no doubt enables a Chinese scholar to trace back their rulers by this method as we did on the Roman and other coins. They also made use of porcelain and small sea shells—the United Staten mint containing some specimens of this porcelain money. The coins of Japan and Korea are similar to those of China, being distinguished at times by the color of the metal used and symbols thereon, Chinese coins bring; mostly of brass, while Japan issued some of copper, and Korea an alloy of both. The holes in these Chinese coins and in almost all coins of Asiatic countries, came from the need of stringing them like beads for preservation, as the Chinese and Hindu had no pockets in what little clothes they wore Today all countries, and in fact every country, make coins of the same general appearance and shape as those of our country, in addition to such as are made with holes.

Coins are made of gold, silver, nickel, bronze, copper bullion—a mixture of silver and copper—brass and aluminum.

The dating of money in the modern chronological order began near the end of the 15th century, about the time Columbus was seeking new worlds, England began to date in the reign of Edward 1, 1547 to 1558. Ancient coins were often marked with the year of consulship, or the regal year, as, for instance, Anno Regi, “A. R. XV.” Maroco coins bear the date of the Mohammedan era, which in our year 1912 would be 1330, about 584 years less than our calendar system.

The first money used in America was furnished chiefly by Great Britain and Spain, but the limited amount, scarcity, and need of it, tempted the colony or Massachusetts to create a small mint in this country, which they did in 1652, where they stuck some silver pieces which are known as “Oak” or “Pine Tree” money, and are quite rare, being the first coins of American origin. Later Lord Baltimore issued coin for the colony of Maryland, 1659, then Mark Newby brought some half pennies and farthings to New Jersey, 1682; John Laws, 1720, and France sending over a lot of copper and bronze money for the “Colonies Francoise” in 1721-1722 and 1767. Woods Irish money and Rosa Americana series were sent here from England about 1722 and 1724. The first copper coins actually made in America are credited to John Higly of Granby, Connecticut, in 1737. They were about the size of our old cent, had on them a deer and throe hammers, with the legends, “I am good copper, value me as you please.”

During and after the American war for independence, various coins were struck by private individuals and by orders of Congress, such as Chalmers tokens, 1783, Nova Constellatio, Fugio, Washington and U. S. bar cents, pewter dollars, etc. The state coinage of copper cents, began with New Hampshire, 1776; Vermont and Connecticut, 1785; New Jersey, 1786; New York, 1787; followed by others until April 2, 1792, when President Washington signed a law to establish a United States mint, which went into effect at once. On September 1st the first six pounds of copper wore bought for coinage On September 21st, three coinage presses arrived from Europe and early in October, 1792, the first “half dimes” and a few copper cent patterns were struck by the new United States mint.

In 1793 the regular issue of copper cents began, which first appeared in a number of different. styles, such as wreath, link, liberty cap, flowing hair; lettered edge, plain edge, etc., being followed by an issue every year for the past 119 years, with the exception of 1815, in which year none were coined. In 1794 the first dollar, half dollar and half dime were struck, in 1796 the first quarter and dime, in 1795 the first gold $10 eagle and $5 half eagle, were struck, in 1849 the first $20 double eagle, in 1873 the first trade dollar. Gold coins were also issued by private parties as early as 1834, the $1, $2½ and $5 gold pieces of the Bechtlers in North Carolina, followed later by the western states, California, Colorado, Oregon and Utah, after the gold discoveries in California, 1849, of which there are numerous specimens to be had, among them the $50 gold “slug” of A. Humbert, the Mormon issues, California $¼, $½ and $1 gold pieces, etc.

The types of the ancient coins were mostly religious. In an age of simple faith the head of a god upon the coin was the best of all guarantees for purity of metal and good weight.

The study of ancient coins is one of the most interesting historic as well as artistic subjects. Some coins are today the only record extant of important events in the world’s history and the existence of cities and nations long since gone forever.

The supply of ancient coins, however, is very large, owing to the large supply of these coins being frequently unearthed, and as a consequence an ancient coin from 1500 to 2500 years old may be purchased for a very small sum. Of course there are many very rare issues which command very high prices.

Some of the most interesting and valuable ancient coins are represented in the various engravings published in this book. The reproductions are from photographs of the original coins and are fully explained as to their mental, denomination, country, etc., by the description printed with each plate.

This, then, is the story of money—how it came to be—what it is today.

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