International commerce in the ancient world
The recent additions to the National Currency Collection described below are from very different parts of the world and are between 1500 and 2500 years old. It may not be obvious at first, but they reflect themes that are still important to us today. Globalization isn’t a recent development–international trade has been around since ancient times. And even then, people were worried about counterfeiting!
Punch-marked coins, Gandhara Janapada, circa 5th century BC
Many of us know about Afghanistan only from news reports. However, the country has a long and sometimes surprising history. In the first millennium BC, the region of northern Afghanistan and Pakistan was home to the Indian Janapada (kingdom) of Gandhara. At the crossroads of Asia and the Middle East, Gandhara was perfectly situated as a hub for trade and the export of cultures. We know that Gandhari merchants traded with Babylon and may have travelled as far west as Egypt and Ancient Greece.
These silver coins attest to the kingdom’s trade connections and wealth. The weight of the coins is based on an Indian standard, the satamana, that is also related to the Babylonian shekel. The smaller stamps on the bar-coin are banker or merchant marks. These marks were probably made by someone testing the quality of the silver.
Glass coin weights, Byzantine Empire, circa 6th-7th century AD
Although the Roman Empire in Western Europe was overrun by invaders, it survived in the East as the Byzantine Empire for over a thousand years. The eparchs, or governors, of cities such as Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey) were almost as important as the emperor himself. One of the eparchs’ responsibilities was to issue the official weights that merchants used to test coins–an early anti-counterfeiting measure.
Some of these weights were made of glass. A blob of melted glass was dropped on a flat surface and stamped before it cooled. The same glass was used to make jewellery and delicate perfume bottles, so the weights come in a variety of colours. They all bear the name or monogram in Greek of the individual who issued them.
For daily users of modern money, getting an understanding of the old British system of currency can be an act of confusion and wonder. But it’s also a peep into 13 centuries of European numismatic history.
Ever wondered who decides what goes on Canadian coins or bank notes? Or why our coins have certain names and our notes are different colours? Use this guide to help answer some of your money-related questions!
Authentic, teachable moments show students how the Bank of Canada is helping the economy navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
The men on the back of this bill were part of a small community of families, a summer hunting camp called Aulatsiivik on Baffin Island.
When the Barenaked Ladies released “If I Had a $1,000,000,” they could have considered themselves reasonably rich. And today? Well, there’s this inflation thing…
Johnson’s entire family, two girls and five boys, was involved in the counterfeiting operation: dad made the plates, the daughters forged the signatures and the boys were learning to be engravers.
Among 1975 $50 bill’s various design proposals were three images, three thematic colours and even three printing methods.
Using a Bank of Canada Museum lesson plan, nearly 200 students told us who they thought should be the bank NOTE-able Canadian on our new $5 bill.
Reid was on the verge of ruin, yet insisted on continuing railway construction. Suffering huge losses, and with no credit or cash resources, Reid issued wage notes to pay his employees.