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Gold is Money and Money is Gold and Always the Twain Shall Meet
So where, some of you may well ask, did it all start…this
business of money and gold and coin of the realm? I guess at the
very beginning there was a fisherman who caught more fish than he
could eat and who wanted a little corn to go with his meal. So he
went to a local farmer who might have had a stand on the highway
and said listen, you give me two ears of corn and a tomato, and
I’ll give you this fine fish, which, though it may by now smells
some, will still go good with your veggies.

But it wasn’t a good system. The farmer probably thought that
stinky old fish was only worth one ear of corn at best, while the
fisherman surely thought he should inherit all the produce
derived from the farm for the season for his fish. So…what to
do what to do. Well, first the farmer said nay nay dear
fisherman. You want corn, give me a chunk of gold. Oh yeah, said
the fisherman. If you want this fish you give me four chunks of
silver. Clearly, this system was tad primitive. Except for your
local scale-makers, who were making out like bandits. Buy a scale
folks, and weigh your chunks. Give me a break, said the farmer. I
want a better standard than this for my corn. And on this the
fisherman agreed.

And so, time passed–as it usually does–till one day, in Lydia,
in Asia Minor, the first monies were coined. It’s now somewhere
around 600 B.C. The Lydians mint their first coins. Oval looking
medallions, with a lion and a bull facing each other on one side,
the coins were all of a standard weight. Hey…let’s call it
money the Lydians probably said. Or something like that. As this
was a most wondrous name and idea, others quickly followed.

It was not long till the Babylonians came into the picture. They
took bits of gold and formed them into little yellow dough shapes
and weighed them out at 8.34 grams each. They called them
Shekels. India began minting gold and silver coins around the
same time as the Lydians. Though miles apart…man seemed to be
progressing on parallel planes. Interesting…no?

Well…a hundred years pass…and Darius the Great, ruler of
Persia, decides it’s time to take things a step forward…and he
has his portrait stamped on the coins of the realm. What a
quaint concept. Could our hero have foretold that this would be
more than just a passing fad. Interestingly, the monetary
strength of these coins of yore were pretty much like the dollar
of today. Or yesterday, depending on your point of view. In other
words…the guarantee of their worth was accepted without
question.

We jump forward in coin-evolution, and it’s now A.D. 325.
Emperor Constantine of Rome coins a coin and calls it a Bezant.
It was the dominant currency for 800 years. We now shoot forward
to some time after the reign of Charlemagne. We’re in western
Europe, and we’re now minting a silver coin called a penny.
Quaint name, eh wot? And we go more forward in time. It’s the
1200’s. Italy mints coins in a town called Florence and calls
them Florins. Venice calls their coins Ducats. I remember setting
some diamonds in my youth called ducats too. Don’t ask. They were
a horror story.

Wooosh. We’re in the 1600’s. How time flies when we’re counting
money. England puts out a new gold coin and calls it a Guinea,
which is named, by the way, after a part of Africa that is now
called Ghana. It was around this time, I read, that
counterfeiters began to make their appearance. Some of these
counterfeiters were master jewelers. Craftsmen of the first
order. It seems that sometime in the 1800’s there was such a
German forger–do not know his name–who was credited with having
such great talent at the bench that in his lifetime he created
over 600 different kinds of forged coins.

Gold, of course, played a major role in the creation of monies,
dating from circa 600 B.C. to the present. And master jewelers
then, and counterfeiters today, still ply their trades too. I
know I’ve said this before…but the more things change…the
more they remain the same.

And there ya have it.
And that’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.

Take care,
Benjamin Mark

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