- Lydia: 7th century BC
- Monnaie de Paris: AD 864
- British Royal Mint: AD 880
Today the U.S. Mint is the largest mint in the world, producing as many as 28 billion coins in a year. The Philadelphia Mint stands as the largest physical site in the U.S., which covers over 650,000 square feet and can produce up to 32 million coins in a year. However, there is a rich history of coin production that spans thousands of years. Here’s a look at the three oldest mints in the world.
Lydia: 7th century BC
Historians believe the oldest mint in the world existed in the ancient kingdom of Lydia in the seventh century BC. While the name of that mint has been lost throughout history, the oldest coins on the planet were produced there. Today, the coinage of the Lydian kingdom is known mostly for the coins of its last king, Croesus (561–546 BC). Croesus produced both gold and silver coinage. Earlier Lydian kings, however, produced electrum coins, which were made of an alloy of gold and silver with a dash of copper added to harden the coin. The royal Lydian coins created the first known series of coins in the Western hemisphere and these early coins served as a model for all subsequent gold and silver coins throughout time.
Monnaie de Paris: AD 864
The Monnaie de Paris in France is the world’s oldest continuously running mint, founded in AD 864 and it is also the world’s eighth-oldest company. In 864, King Charles II, also known as Charles the Bald, issued an edict to create a Parisian monetary workshop attached to the Crown. The King issued this edict in an attempt to concentrate the power to mint and issue currency under the Throne, making currency production a State Power. Previously, the King shared the power to mint currency with a variety of lords, barons and ecclesiaticals from the provinces. In the early days, the currencies were hand-minted using a hammer. It wasn’t until the reign of Louis XIV at the end of the 17th century that mint production advanced to a screw press, which allowed for the currency minting to become more standardized.
British Royal Mint: AD 880
Similar to the French mint, the British Royal Mint was founded in part to centralize coin production, in this case from all of Great Britain, the United Kingdom and all nations across the Commonwealth. In 880, the Royal Mint produced its first coin: an Alfred the Great silver penny, which was struck during the resettlement of London after the Viking occupation. In 1279, the Mint moved to the Tower of London, which was known as “the little tower where the treasure of the mint is kept.” In 1489, the Royal Mint produced its first sovereign coin: King Henry VII decreed a ‘new money of gold’ to establish the might and power of his reign. Today, the Sovereign coin is still known as the “coin of the monarch” and remains one of the Royal Mint’s flagship coins. In 1662, King Charles II introduced new production methods at the Royal Mint. Coins were then produced using horse-drawn rolling mills and screw presses instead of the previous hand struck method. Notably, in 1696, Isaac Newton Isaac Newton was appointed Warden of The Royal Mint, and he became the Master of the Mint in 1699, a post which he held until his passing in 1727.
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