The history of gold coins is somewhat obscure and complex. Various historical sources pinpoint to various dates and sites as being the first place and time gold was discovered. This leads to the conclusion that the first sighting and use of gold cannot be pinpointed with concrete archeological evidence. However there are a number of recorded proofs that gold has been in use and had excited man since way back.
For example, fossil study experts found traces of gold in Spanish caves dated back to the Paleolithic Man of about 40,000 B.C. One other historical source claims gold was discovered around 6000 circa B.C. while another reports that the Pharaohs of Egypt and their temple priests used gold for adornment as far back as circa 3000 B.C. Egypt.
Egypt was not however the first reported civilization to use gold as a means of exchange. That honor was claimed by the Kingdom of Lydia in western Turkey around 700 B.C. The first form of gold money coins were produced by Lydian merchants. The coins were stamp lumps known as electrum and were made up of 27% sliver and 63% gold.
Archeological evidence indicates that the extensive use of gold began in the Middle East. The earliest pieces of gold used as jewelry were found in the excavated tombs of the Egyptian Queen Zer and Queen Pu-abi of Ur Sumeria. The tomb of Tutankhamen of Egypt of the second millennium BC proved to contain the largest discovered collection of gold and jewelry and included a gold coffin.
The Roman Empíre
By the time of the Roman Empire, Rome was filled with many gold artisans and a wide variety of gold jewelry was used. Gold was later also used in furniture and some household items in the homes of the rich in Rome. By the third century AD, gold necklaces containing the image of the Roman emperor were popular among the citizens.
Before the coming of the Spanish, Indian goldsmith had already mastered many gold processing techniques such as granulation, hammering, pressing, filigree, inlay and lost-wax methods. The largest gold deposits of those times were located in the Andes and Columbia. The early United States frontier days saw the discovery of large deposits of gold in a number of locations and led to what is referred to as the gold rushes.
The Gold Rush
Occurring in many western states, the gold rush saw many men risking life and scrambling to get a share of the precious golden yellow wonder. One of the most famous rushes in the United States happened in 1848 at Stutter’s Mill, California. Gold rushes also occurred in Australia, South Africa and Canada in 1851, 1884 and 1897 respectively.
The Gold Standard
The use of gold as a monetary standard was later adopted to stabilize the global economy. The gold standard stipulated that a country could not issue currency above the amount of gold it had it its reserves. In 1821, Great Britain adopted the gold standard and was followed by the rest of Europe during the 1870s.
The gold standard was later dropped by other countries at the end of the First World War and most countries began to keep currency as reserves instead of gold. US however continued to honor the gold standard until the great depression when gold was replaced by the US dollar in international trade.
After the Second World War, however, a system called Bretton Woods was re-introduced, and it operated in a similar manner to the gold standard. The U.S. government fixed the price of gold at $35 per ounce, and other countries fixed the exchange rate of their currencies in relation to the dollar, so effectively gold was again backing up the economies around the world. In 1971, due to pressures from other countries and national debt problems, president Nixon decided to stop the convertibility of the dollar to gold, effectively terminating the gold standard.
In 1986, the American eagle program was initiated allowing the sale of gold and silver bullion coins. While the exact history of gold remains debatable, no one can argue that the golden yellow wonder has excited and pleasured man for centuries and would continue to do — the history of gold coins just backs this up.
These days gold coins remain a valid investment option, especially for those who want to hedge against inflation, and many banks and funds from around the world use it to integrate their portfolios. Gold’s popularity seems to be seasonal, growing when there’s uncertainty in the global economy.