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Good as gold – coins are history

Gold is power - gold gives prestige. By minting gold coins, rulers have enabled people to meet and exchange values ​​in confidence for the past 2,600 years. And individual exploits live on by being honoured in gold.

Gold coins from the Collection. Photo and collage: Museum of Cultural History, UiO/ Lill-Ann Chepstow-Lusty.

The invention of coins, and thus money in the modern sense, had major consequences for human activities such as trade, agriculture, the creation of cities and the organisation of society. Money ensured that people who did not trust each other could cooperate effectively. Money is the only trust-based system that can cross almost any cultural divide, and it does not discriminate on the grounds of religion, gender, race, age or sexual orientation.

All that glitters is gold

For 5,000 years, gold has meant status, wealth and a measure of value. Gold has been prominent throughout the history of money, from the first coins in Asia Minor from about 625 BC until the twentieth century when gold reserves formed the foundation of our monetary systems.

Gold coins and medals have always been associated with prestige and great value. They have had the greatest value throughout history, whether King Croesus’ largest coins, Roman emperors’ gold medallions, the most valuable coins minted in the Middle Ages and in more modern times, or the most prestigious awards for individuals.

Cleopatra – the world’s first celebrity?

Cleopatra VII on a bronze coin minted between 50 and 31 BC. On the back is the inscription KLEPATRAS BASILISSIS, ie Queen Kleoptra. Photo: Kirsten Jensen Helgeland, Cultural History Museum.

This summer, the museum presents one of our lesser-known coins from the Coin Cabinet's large collection. But the person portrayed on the coin is not unknown at all. Cleopatra is one of the most legendary people in history. With her death ended the Roman Civil Wars and Egypt's independence. It would be almost 2,000 years before the country regained its independence.

The myths surrounding Cleopatra are inextricably linked to her beautiful appearance. Can coins from antiquity reveal whether the myths correspond to the historical reality, asks the museum's expert on ancient coins, associate professor Håkon Roland.

Read further about Cleopatra – the world’s first celebrity?

Good as gold

The exhibition shows selected gold coins from the past 2,600 years, but also explains how a cow could be used as money before the introduction of coins. Fridtjof Nansen’s and Roald Amundsen’s extensive collections of decorations and gold medals are also displayed. In the gold portal we can also see 15,000 gold coins from the gold reserves of the Bank of Norway. This gold played the leading role in one of the greatest dramas of the German occupation of Norway. Many of these items have never been exhibited before.

The exhibition was opened to mark the 200-year anniversary of the Coin Cabinet in 2017.

Gallery

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The coin that established Norway’s monetary system

This spring we present a unique coin at the Historical Museum: a penny from the period of transition from the Viking Age to the Middle Ages, c. 1050 AD.