Comment: Chinese inscription, "All counterfeiters will be decapitated."

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Chinese inscription, "All counterfeiters will be decapitated."

[With trepidation let me wade in... MT]

Oriental Cutlery, 1,100 B.C.: Chinese moved from using actual tools and weapons as a medium of exchange to using miniature replicas of the same tools cast in bronze. Nobody wanted to ... impale their hand on a sharp arrow so, over time, these tiny daggers, spades and hoes were abandoned for the less prickly shape of a circle, which became some of the first coins. Although China was the first country to use recognizable coins, the first minted coins were created not too far away in Lydia (now western Turkey).

Coins and Currency, 600 B.C.: Lydia's King Alyattes minted the first official currency. The coins were made from electrum, a mixture of silver and gold that occurs naturally, and stamped with pictures that acted as denominations. In Sardis, circa 600 B.C. a clay jar might cost you two owls and a snake. Lydia's currency helped the country increase both its internal and external trade, making it one of the richest empires in Asia Minor. It is interesting that when someone says, "as rich as Croesus", they are referring to the last Lydian king who minted the first gold coin. Unfortunately, minting the first coins and developing a strong trading economy couldn't protect Lydia from the swords of the Persian army...

Not Just a Piece of Paper: Just when it looked like Lydia was taking the lead in currency developments, in 600 B.C., the Chinese moved from coins to paper money. By the time Marco Polo visited in 1,200 A.D., the emperor had a good handle on both money supply and various denominations. In the place of where the American bills say, "In God We Trust," the Chinese inscription warned, "All counterfeiters will be decapitated."

Disclaimer: Mark Twain (1835-1910-To be continued) is unlicensed. His river pilot's license went delinquent in 1862. Caution advised. Daily Paul