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Jim Letourneau's Blog

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Silver Series - History of Silver as Money


  • 475 BC China was the first country to monetize silver.



  • 775 AD “British Pounds Sterling”: in approximately 775 AD the Saxon kingdoms issued silver coins known as “sterlings”, 240 of them being minted out of one pound of silver. Large payments were reckoned in “pounds of sterling” later shortened to “pounds sterling.”



  • 1072 After the Norman Conquest the pound was divided for simplicity of accounting into 20 shillings and 240 pence or pennies.



  • 1497 Spanish “Pieces of Eight” were coins first struck in 1497 containing a high silver purity and weight. They were the basis of the monetary system of the  Spanish Empire and were widely circulated around the world. They were  accepted as legal tender in the US until 1857.



  • 1800s By the mid 1800s China, through trade and mercantilism, was in possession of 50% of the worlds above ground silver. The British sold opium to China in exchange for tea, silk and silver - a factor in the Opium Wars between the British and China during the mid-1800s.



  • 1930s Silver was used as China’s official currency until the 1930s.