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Gold as Currency

Pile of gold coins and gold bars.

Gold has been used as currency since ancient times. It is found on almost every continent, making it accessible to all cultures.

Gold Coins

The first known use of gold coins was in Anatolia (now Turkey) in 7th century B.C. In the beginning, gold coins were very simply decorated but became more elaborate over time.

Photograph of French Louis d’Or coin.

Historic gold coin recovered from a shipwreck off the coast of Nova Scotia.

NSM Archaeology Collection CfCc-2:763 - Coin-Louis d"Or

A mint mark, "T", visible below the coat of arms indicates this French Louis d'Or coin was struck at the Royal Mint in Nantes on the west coast of France in 1727. The coin was recovered in 2002 by archaeologists, from the wreck of the Auguste, a French ship captured by the British and hired to deport soldiers and officials from Quebec back to France. Enroute to France, the Auguste ran aground at Aspy Bay, northern Cape Breton during a fierce storm in November 1761.  One hundred fourteen crew and passengers drowned and only seven survived.

As gold was rarely used in everyday commercial exchanges, this coin would have seen very little circulation. The coin was likely part of a passenger’s private treasury, perhaps the life savings of a wealthy individual being exiled from New France.

Gold Currency Today

Photograph of the largest Canadian gold coin, which weights 100 kg.

Canada’s largest gold coin, weighing 100 kg.

Photo courtesy of the Barrick Gold Corporation

The largest gold coin in Canada was created by the Royal Canadian Mint. Weighing 100-kg, the coin is 99.999% pure gold and sold at auction for 4.2 million dollars in 2011. For four years, this coin held the title of the largest gold coin in the world, as proven by Guinness World Records in 2007. Australia now holds this title, with their 1,000 kg, 99.99% pure gold coin.

Gold is still used as currency today. This kind of currency is called the gold standard. The gold standard is “a monetary standard under which the basic unit of currency is equal in value to and exchangeable for a specified amount of gold" (dictionary).

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