Precursors of the Coins

Man, whether living as a nomad or in settled communities, always had to face the problem of securing the various necessities for his survival. To begin with he used various surplus goods as a means of exchange, trading these for other goods he required. This action is known as barter.

greek coins - talent coin

Such trade, however, meant that there must always be a commodity to hand which was essential to the other party. At an early stage, livestock, something possessed by everybody, came to be established as a common means of exchange. As time passed, however, the need for an easily usable, divisible and storable means of exchange became ever more pressing. A solution to the problem was found in metal. At the same time, the use of the scale for weighing became widespread. By weighing metal it acquired a fixed value, and so metal whether as amorphous nuggets or in a specific shape came to be used for exchange. In time the talent came to be widely adopted. This is a copper ingot in the shape of an ox-hide, and probably representing the value of an ox.

greek coins - spits from heraeum of argos

In the next stage, the spit (obolos), the precursor of the coin, came into use. This is an iron rod, measuring 1 to 1.5 metres in length, and identical with the spits used for roasting meat.

greek coins

The obols were transformed into a monetary unit since they were lighter and easier to transport than talents.