Ether is not issued by any specific single manner – a compromise between funding to get the project off the ground and future mining to secure the network has been taken. If you were lucky enough to have bought into the crowd funding of Ethereum you would have helped fund the project as well as got yourself some currency on one of the most exciting financial/technological advances ever.
The fundraising was taken in mid 2014, and roughly 60 million (60,102,216 ETH) Ether units were issued at a rate of between 1000-2000 Ether per Bitcoin or BTC.
Of the total amount sold another 9.9% were released to allocated to the Ethereum Foundation to compensate early contributors and pay for ETH denominated expenses prior to the genesis block on the 30th July 2015.
Another 9.9% was maintained as a long term reserve for Ethereum meaning the total number of coins released prior to the launch was 72 million.
The Ether currency units to be released per year after the Genesis block will be 26% of the initial 60 million raised in the funding phase. The amount of coins released per year will stay constant at 15.6 million Ether Units. In year five, or July 2020, over 50% of the coins will have been mined by miners.
Ether is issued at a rate of 5 ETH per block on a block time target of 12 seconds.
In this way the inflation takes precedence in the first few years and deflation further down the path – very similar to Bitcoin. The difference being that Bitcoin rewards stop after the year 2140 – with Ethereum there will still be 15.6 million Ether units issued – a marginal increase in the money supply.