History of money cycle

From the first mentions up to the creation of Transcaucasian Commissariat in 1917

The earliest coins found in Armenia date back to the 6-5th centuries BC. These are two silver diobols struck in the Ionian city of Miletus, which have been found in Erebuni excavation.

Coins were in use in Armenia starting from the 3rd century BC. At the Hellenistic age, military campaigns and cross-border trade facilitated the appearance of coins of Alexander the Great, as well as of Seleucid, Athenian, Parthian, Roman, Cappadocian coins on to Armenian market.

Starting from the second half of the 3rd century BC Armenian kings of the Yervandian dynasty began striking coins in Sophene, which are the earliest Armenian coins on record.

In the period of Artaxiad kingdom (189 BC - 1 AD) minting of coins in Greater Armenia dates back to the years of reign by Tigran II the Great (95 - 55 BC).
A great number of silver and copper coins were minted in many cities of his empire – Artashat, Tigranakert, Mtsbin, Antioch and Damascus.

Tigran II Grate (95-55 BC ) silver tetradrakhma

Tigran II Grate (95-55 BC ) silver drakhma

Tigran II Grate (95-55 BC ) copper khalkos

Tigran II Grate (95-55 BC ) copper khalkos

The kings ruling after Tigran II the Great generally issued copper coins. Engraves and style of the Armenian coins of the Hellenistic period were entirely in line with the spirit of the time. The coins normally depicted the portrait of the monarch on the obverse and mythological symbols as well as the king’s name and title on the reverse, in Greek inscriptions.

Artavazd II (55-34 BC) silver drakhma

Artavazd II (55-34 BC) copper khalkos

Artashes II (30-20 BC) copper khalkos

Tigran IV (6 BC – 1 AD) copper khalkos

Tigran IV and Erato (6 BC – 1 AD) copper khalkos

Tigran V (6 AD) copper khalkos

At the end of ruling of Artaxiad dynasty the municipal copper coins with depiction of Tikhve (Goddess of Artashat capital) were minted.

Copper khalkos of Artashat city
Copper khalkos of Artashat city

There are not particularly known coins of the Arsacid dynasty (66 - 428) on record. Initially, coins of the neighboring countries, Roman Empire and Parthian Kingdom, were in circulation in Armenia.
The coins of Sassanid Empire, Persia, were put into circulation in Armenia starting from the second half of the 3rd century and the coins of Byzantine Empire, from the end of the 5th century.

After being conquered by Arab Caliphate (second half of the 7th century) coins of the Umayyads and, later on, of the Abbasids were used in circulation. Of the money of Arabic Caliphate, silver dirhams, copper fals and a limited number of gold dinars were in circulation in Armenia.

At the end of the 10th century silver dirhams were replaced by the Byzantine gold coin and copper follises which then took a lead role of money in the region at the time. In the 11th and 12th centuries, coins of Seljuk and other Muslim rulers began penetrating into circulation.

Coins were not struck during the reign of the Bagratid dynasty of Ani (885 - 1045), although we know about the copper coins issued under the king Curicé II (1048 - 1089), a descendant of the Bagratid dynasty reigning in a small kingdom of Tashir-Dzoraget. Those coins resembled the Byzantine nameless follises, though they had names of the kings and other writings in Armenian engraved. These are the first coins on record, which bear Armenian inscriptions.

Curicé II (1048 - 1089), copper khalkos
Curicé II (1048 - 1089), copper khalkos

At the end of the 11th century an Armenian state was established in Cilicia, which lasted a little more than three hundred years (1080 - 1375). The history of this state had two periods of princedom and kingdom. Under the princedom (1080 - 1198) some princes of the Rubenid dynasty issued copper coins which were influenced by Crusader-era illustrations but were in Armenian inscriptions. Under the kingdom (1198 - 1375), starting from the reign of the king Levon I, a great number of coins were minted in silver and copper and, sometimes, in billon (an alloy with a smaller content of silver).
The silver coins were called dramtagvorin, and copper coins – dang, qartez, pogh. The coins of Cilicia stand out for their original iconography that combine Armenian, European and Oriental elements and for Armenian inscriptions.

Levon I (1198-1219), silver dram

Hethum I (1226-1269) silver dram

Hetum I (1226-1269) copper dang

Smbat (1296-1298) copper pogh

Early in the 13th century copper coins of Georgian kings, the queen Tamara in particular, were in circulation in the northern and eastern parts of Armenia. Coins of Mongolian khans appeared in circulation starting from the second half of the 13th century. These were basically silver dirhems, as well as copper fals in small number. Later, coins of different Muslim dynasties of Turkic origin were used in money circulation.

From the 16th century until 1820s, coins of Iranian shahs dominated in circulation in Armenia. There were copper, silver and gold coins minted in many Iranian towns and Yerevan.
After annexation of Eastern Armenia to the Russian Empire in 1828, the empire’s monetary issuance in gold, silver and copper were put into circulation. The paper notes (banknotes) of the empire were put into circulation for the first time. In the aftermath of the February revolution in 1917 the banknotes of the Russia’s Provisional Government began circulating in Armenia.

Content Published 05/03/2019