There were lumps of metal used as money early in the 7th century BC but only with geometric designs at most. However the definition of 'coin' requires a picture or portrait and an inscription referring to the country or its ruler.


Later in the 7th century (probably about 615 BC) the first real coin was produced. The coin showed a picture of a lion with an inscription in front of its face.  The inscription in front of the lion is WALWET:

written in a mirror image of the Lydian letters.

It is possible that the first die carvers of the Lydian lions engraved WALWET into the die directly as it is written, not realizing that, when a coin is stamped, a mirror image of the word WALWET would result on the coin. After all, this was the very first time that letters had been engraved onto coins. The justification for this reasoning is as follows:

First of all, the phoneme W is the quite often the pronunciation of the letter V. So one should use the spelling VALVET for the word we pronounce as WALWET. See #1 in the sequence below.
Secondly, Lydian is more often written right to left - so VALVET should be written TEVLAV. See #2 in the sequence below.
Thirdly, using Lydian letters for TEVLAV, the result is shown as #3 in the list below. THIS IS THE WAY THE THE WORD WALWET SHOULD APPEAR ON A COIN!

However, if the Lydian letters shown in #3 were carved into the die, then the image on the stamped coin would be a mirror image of #3. This is shown as #4 in this list.

This reasoning must be correct BECAUSE #4 is EXACTLY, PRECISELY what appears on the Lydian Lion coin!! (even down to the correct angle of the slanted center bar of the letter A).

The planchet (the coin blank) was smaller than the die so only the middle 4 letters are clearly visible.

Evidently the mirror image error and the planchet size error were discovered quickly and the minting was stopped in favor of a die of the lion without the letters. Thus, only a few coins with the letters were produced which may account for its rarity.

WALWET is short for WALWETES which is the Lydian name for king ALYATTES. The two sounds "wa" and "ya" are very closely related as they are both "semi-vowels" [and in fact the ONLY semi-vowels in the English Language]. In this respect, they are easily interchanged in individuals with different languages or accents.


Alyattes, king of Lydia (619-560 BC), the real founder of the Lydian empire, was the son of Sadyattes, of the house of the Mermnadae.  Alyattes standardized the weight of coins (1 Stater = 168 grains of wheat). The coins were produced using an anvil die technique and stamped with the Lion's head, the symbol of the house of Mermnadae.

He was succeeded by his son Croesus.