Gold stater

Period: Archaic

Date: ca. 560–546 B.C.

Culture: Lydian

Medium: Gold

Dimensions: Overall: 3/8 x 9/16 x 1/16 in. (1 x 1.4 x 0.2 cm)

Classification: Coins

Credit Line: Gift of The American Society for the Excavation of Sardis, 1926

Accession Number: 26.59.2


This gold stater, a standard form of currency in antiquity, is one of thirty that were found in a small terracotta jug at Sardis. Staters were made of gold, electrum, and silver, with standard weights varying according to their place of issue. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that the Lydians invented coinage, and that Croesus (r. 560–546 B.C.) was the first king to issue gold and silver coins. As the Lydian empire developed in economic and political power, the use of electrum for coinage, due to its uncertainty of exact value, became a handicap to trade. Croesus, therefore, reformed the currency by basing it on gold. He abandoned electrum as the regular coinage in favor of a bimetallic currency of pure gold and pure silver. Both gold and silver coins were stamped with the same design–the confronting foreparts of a lion and bull. The weights of the coins were arranged so that one gold coin was worth twenty in silver.
The majority of Lydian coins bearing the foreparts of a lion and bull were minted after the reign of Croesus; however, this gold stater is one of the original coins of Croesus himself. The jug with thirty staters was probably buried for safekeeping shortly before the Persian conquest of Sardis in 547 B.C.