The ancient Near Eastern country of Cappadocia (located in modern-day Turkey) may deserve credit for issuing the first metal ingots stamped by a state authority sanctioning the metal for monetary use. Between 2250 and 2150 b.c. stamped ingots circulated among Cappadocian traders.
Cuneiform tablets record commercial transactions with references to payments made in money of a particular seal, for example, “of my seal,” or “of your seal.” Some evidence suggests that state-stamped ingots circulated at values exceeding the market value of their metal content. Apparently, different magistrates put their own seals on metal ingots, and some debt contracts called for differential interest rates, depending upon the seal of the money received in repayment.
The Cappadocian monetary units were shekels and minae, the latter a significant multiple of shekels. Silver and copper accounted for virtually all the metallic currency, although lead frequently showed up as an article of trade. No evidence suggests that the stamped ingots commanded a legal-tender status in the eyes of the law. Neither is it clear that a magisterial stamp vouched for a uniformity of weight or standard of purity.
Stamped ingots of Cappadocia predate the electrum dumps issued by the kingdom of Lydia (seated on what is now the western coast of Turkey) 500 years later, a challenge to Lydia’s boast of being the inventor of coinage. The difference between the Cappadocian stamped ingots and Lydia’s punched dumps is a matter of degree only. In each case an official stamp or punch identified the metal as money. Cappadocia’s monetary history represented a very primitive stage in the development of state-guaranteed money.