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What were they worth: the purchasing power of ancient coins?

Throughout history, there has been two contradictory concepts that have been following the coins. One, a coin is a piece of metal of value which is equivalent to the value of the metal it was made from consisting of the same weight and purity. Second, it is a token whose value depends upon the willingness of the people to accept the coin in exchange for another item.

One question that is common amongst the numismatists is “what was the coin worth back then?” well, it all depends on various aspects of their usage.

As the world evolved, almost everything is instantly convertible into cash. Everything has a precise exchange rate, but that does not set the value of the coins of ancient times. Today, numismatists find Roman coins for sale according to their uniqueness and rarity.

  • The equivalent value of the metal

The ancient roman coins were made out of Gold, Silver or Bronze. The Gold coins were important for trading goods from other countries and pay taxes, and so were the silver coins. On the other hand, bronze was used to pay wages of the slaves who mined or built the castles of the king.

  • Labour equivalent value

The silver and bronze drachma or denarius were used to pay the minimum wage of the worker. Today, it is amongst the most popular among the numismatists. In the ancient world, most workers were farmers, builders or miners who were enslaved to feed the country on minimum wages.

  • Soldiers pay

This was one of the significant items in the budget of the ancient empires. Soldiers were paid the highest amounts of all for their services in ancient times.

The ancient economy was largely bimetallic. It means that the elite roman class, i.e. the kings and the traders or perhaps soldiers used the gold coins, to purchase luxury goods, properties or slaves, the silver were given as wages and the bronze was circulated for the purchase of daily necessities. Think of it like this: a copper coin for a loaf of bread and a silver as a daily wage of a slave, and a gold to buy a good horse.

The government values modern currency while ancient money is determined by the value of the metal used for forging.

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Written by Aliza Gavin

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