Ionia Third Stater NGC VF 650-550 B.C.




Electrum is a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver that has been used since antiquity to create coins. Today, Nobel Prizes are made of its man-made equivalent.

The Pactolus River in Lydia was one of the ancient world’s most significant sources of electrum. Although others in the Middle East had previously used measured amounts of precious metal as forms of payment, it was the Lydians who invented coinage as we think of it today. In the seventh century BC, the Lydians started making and marking small lumps of electrum in consistent weights. One big downside: the amount of gold in each varied significantly, and thus you could never be certain of an individual coin’s actual value.

The Lydians started heating the metal with lead in order to separate the gold from the silver, leading to the world’s first coins made of pure gold and pure silver. Lydian coins were also the first forms of money that bore something like a state seal (the Lydian lion), making them what we today would think of as legal tender.



Prices Shown Subject to Change

The pricing quoted on this page is based on the current market price for this precious metal, which constantly fluctuates and we continuously update from 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. CT, Monday through Friday.

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