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Byzantine iron sheets - 410 BC
From the Archives
Originally published March 01st, 2009
200 words - Reading time : less than a minute
( 1 vote, 4/5 ) Print article





Through its perfect strategic situation for trade and defence Byzantium/Constantinople has been a natural trading centre for 2,500 years. After its foundation it rapidly assumed the high level of economic sophistication necessary for ancient civilisations to adopt representative money systems.

It learnt from Ionia and made sure its iron based currency was at the forefront of the technology of the time - which made it difficult to counterfeit. However the central authority of Byzantium as a city state decayed amid an unwillingness to generate public resources through taxes, and public belief in the value of these iron tokens evaporated as they were issued in large numbers to pay for public works.

The state later privatised its monetary operations by granting a statutory monopoly on money production to a bank. This bank used gold in its coins, which limited the problem, but they were still overvalued, and although an increasing gold content was deployed it failed to stop counterfeiting and smuggling until monetary circulation returned to a gold base as an intrinsically valuable money.

The iron tokens faded away into valueless disrepute through their own lack of creditworthiness, a result of state sponsored fiscal indiscipline.



Paul Sustain

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Paul Tustain

Settlement-systems specialist Paul Tustain launched BullionVault in 2005 to make the security and cost-efficiencies of the professional wholesale gold market available to private investors. Designed specifically to meet his own gold ownership needs as a risk-averse investor, BullionVault now cares for over US$1bn of client gold property, all of it privately owned in the client's choice of low-cost, market-accredited facilities in London, New York or Zurich.
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