On this page we offer some of the first coins of mankind. The simplest and earliest coin type was a natural electrum lump without design and with only a punch to indicate it was more than just a nugget.
Mytilene, Lesbos, c. 454 - 427 B.C.
Mytilene revolted against Athens in 428 B.C. but was overcome by an Athenian expeditionary force. The Athenian public assembly voted to massacre all the men of the city and to sell the women and children into slavery but changed its mind the next day. A fast trireme sailed the 186 nautical miles (344 km) in less than a day and brought the decision to cancel the massacre.SH73118. Electrum hekte, Bodenstedt Em. 52; HGC 6 978, gVF, obverse slightly off center, weight 2.546 g, maximum diameter 10.8 mm, die axis 0o, Mytilene mint, c. 454 - 427 B.C.; obverse young male head right, hair in band; reverse wreathed male head right, wearing long beard, in incuse square; ex CNG auction 342, lot 272; $900.00 (€783.00)
Lyttus, Crete, c. 450 - 320 B.C.
References do not describe the obverse legend, but it is also present on the Svoronos plate.SH65976. Silver drachm, Svoronos Crete p. 231, 19 and pl.XXI, 13; BMC Crete p. 55, 7; SNG Cop 494, aVF, slightly grainy, well centered, weight 5.352 g, maximum diameter 19.9 mm, die axis 0o, Lyttus mint, c. 380 - 320 B.C.; obverse ΛY−TΣ (clockwise starting above, ΛY ligate), eagle flying left; reverse ΛYTTION, boar’s head right in beaded square border, all within incuse square; rare; $680.00 (€591.60)
Athens, Greece, Old Style Tetradrachm, c. 449 - 413 B.C.
The old-style tetradrachm of Athens is famous for its almond shaped eye, archaic smile and charming owl reverse. Around 480 B.C. a wreath of olive leaves and a decorative scroll were added to Athena's helmet. On the reverse a crescent moon was added.
During the period 449 - 413 B.C. huge quantities of tetradrachms were minted to finance grandiose building projects such as the Parthenon and to cover the costs of the Peloponnesian War.
GS73681. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31 ff., Kroll 8, SGCV I 2526, F, centered, obverse rough, test cuts, weight 16.302 g, maximum diameter 26.1 mm, die axis 45o, Athens mint, c. 449 - 413 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, almond shaped eye, crested helmet with olive leaves and floral scroll, wire necklace, round earring, hair in parallel curves; reverse AΘE right, owl standing right, head facing, erect in posture, olive sprig and crescent left, all within incuse square; $600.00 (€522.00)
Himera, Sicily, 430 - 420 B.C.
The style of the early coinage of Himera varied greatly. This coin has the most cartoon-like style. Calciati describes the beveled flan as a "truncated cone."SH68313. Bronze tetras, Calciati I p. 32, 18; SNG Cop 315; SNG ANS 181; SNG Morcom 596; HGC 2 467 (R1), VF, smoothing, weight 11.965 g, maximum diameter 22.1 mm, die axis 135o, Himera mint, 430 - 420 B.C.; obverse facing gorgoneion with cartoon-like style, protruding tongue, curly hair with no part, almond eyes, and pellet nostrils; reverse three pellets, within round incuse; rare; $580.00 (€504.60)
Ionia, c. 625 - 600 B.C.
Mitchiner notes this type, struck at the Lydian-Milesian weight standard used in southern Ionia, has no particular affinities with the major coin series from Miletos or Ephesos. Two possible mint cities, to which no other coins of the period have been attributed, are Myous and Lebedus.SH73584. Electrum 1/24th stater, cf. Rosen 292, Mitchiner ATEC167, Elektron I 51, SNG Kayhan -, Weidauer -, VF, struck with worn dies, weight 0.560 g, maximum diameter 6.3 mm, uncertain southern Ionian mint, c. 625 - 600 B.C.; obverse raised irregular square with line and/or pellet decorations and extended corners; reverse incuse irregular square punch with line and/or pellet decorations; very rare; $500.00 (€435.00)
Ionia, c. 650 - 600 B.C.
This is an example of the very earliest form of coinage; a type-less (blank) electrum globule, weighed to a specific standard, with a simple square punch mark on one side (two or three punch marks on larger denominations). Nine similar blank electrum pieces were within the famous "Artemision Find" at Ephesus in 1904.
SH73586. Electrum 1/48th stater, SNGvA 7764, Weidauer -, Traité I -, Rosen -, SNG Kayhan -, Mitchiner ATEC -, VF, weight 0.295 g, maximum diameter 4.2 mm, uncertain Ionian mint, c. 650 - 600 B.C.; obverse plain globular surface; reverse incuse irregular square punch; very rare; $450.00 (€391.50)
Ephesos(?), Ionia, c. 575 - 550 B.C.
The lion's paw on this coin is of a far more realistic form than most of the lion's paw electrum coins. This extremely rare later variation is not listed in Karwiese, the primary reference for the early coins of Ephesos. It was probably struck for a short time just before Ephesos recognized that they should be using the bee and symbols of Artemis on their coins, not lions or lion parts.SH73587. Electrum 1/24 stater, Mitchiner ATEC 125, Rosen 285, SNG Kayhan -, Weidauer -, Karwiese -, VF, well centered, encrustations, weight 0.383 g, maximum diameter 6.1 mm, Ephesos(?) mint, c. 575 - 550 B.C.; obverse lion's paw or a realistic form seen from above; reverse incuse square divided by seven spokes radiating from a central pellet; extremely rare; $440.00 (€382.80)
Mylasa(?), Caria, c. 560 - 545 B.C.
Under Achaemenid Persian rule, Mylasa was the chief city of Caria. The Persian satrap (governor) ruled the city in varying degrees of allegiance to the emperor. Mylasa was a regionally prominent member of the Delian League, 460 - 450 B.C., but Persian rule was restored towards the end of the century.SH73588. Electrum 1/48 stater, Weidauer 168, Rosen 302, Mitchiner ATEC 215 (Ephesus, 560 - 545 B.C.), SNG Kayhan -, VF, weight 0.292 g, maximum diameter 4.9 mm, Mylasa(?) mint, c. 560 - 545 B.C.; obverse lion paw; reverse scorpion within incuse square; very rare; $440.00 (€382.80)
Chios, Islands off Ionia, c. 431 - 412 B.C.
Chios, in the Aegean Sea, 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) off the Anatolian coast, is the fifth largest of the Greek islands. At the end of the 7th century B.C., Chios became one of the first cities to strike coins, establishing the sphinx as its symbol. It maintained this tradition for almost 900 years. Based on the huge necropolis at the main city of Chios, by the 5th to 4th centuries B.C., the island had grown to an estimated population of over 120,000 (2 - 3 times the current population). During the Hellenistic period, the Chios became famous for the high quality of its wine and was the largest exporter of Greek wine. Chian amphoras, with a characteristic sphinx emblem and bunches of grape have been found as far away as Gaul, Upper Egypt and Southern Russia. After the Roman conquest Chios became part of the province of Asia. The Empire ceded Chios to the Republic of Genoa in 1261.GA71652. Silver drachm, SNG Cop 1546, SNGvA 2275, Rosen 607, Baldwin Chios 79, SGCV II 4600, VF, attractive style, well centered on a tight flan, weight 3.558 g, maximum diameter 13.5 mm, Chios mint, c. 431 - 412 B.C.; obverse Sphinx seated left, grapes over amphora before, the whole on a circular raised shield; reverse Incuse square divided into four square compartments by fine cross lines, surface of compartments is roughened by design of the die (not wear); $400.00 (€348.00)
Mylasa, Caria, c. 560 - 545 B.C.
Under Achaemenid Persian rule, Mylasa was the chief city of Caria. The Persian satrap (governor) ruled the city in varying degrees of allegiance to the emperor. Mylasa was a regionally prominent member of the Delian League, 460 - 450 B.C., but Persian rule was restored towards the end of the century.SH74014. Electrum 1/48 stater, Weidauer 166 - 167, SNG Kayhan 925 - 927, SNGvA 1804, SNG Keckman 918, Traité I 94, VF, weight 0.212 g, maximum diameter 4.9 mm, die axis 180o, Mylasa mint, c. 560 - 545 B.C.; obverse lion head facing, seen from above; reverse scorpion within incuse square; $350.00 (€304.50)
Mylasa, Caria, c. 560 - 545 B.C.
Under Achaemenid Persian rule, Mylasa was the chief city of Caria. The Persian satrap (governor) ruled the city in varying degrees of allegiance to the emperor. Mylasa was a regionally prominent member of the Delian League, 460 - 450 B.C., but Persian rule was restored towards the end of the century.SH74016. Electrum 1/48 stater, Weidauer 166 - 167, SNG Kayhan 925 - 927, SNGvA 1804, SNG Keckman 918, Traité I 94, VF, weight 0.290 g, maximum diameter 5.2 mm, die axis 180o, Mylasa mint, c. 560 - 545 B.C.; obverse lion head facing, seen from above; reverse scorpion within incuse square; $350.00 (€304.50)
Iberian Celts, Hacksilver, c. 300 - 150 B.C.
SH73371. Silver hacksilver fragment, perhaps from a disk ingot; cf. Kim and Kroll 59; Van Alfen Hacksilber 53 ff., 26.019g, 23.9mm long, VF, $300.00 (€261.00)
Ionia, c. 600 - 550 B.C.
SH74027. Electrum 1/24 stater, cf. Rosen 328 (mill-sail incuse reverse), ATEC 178 (1/24 stater, Teos), SNG Kayhan 708 (1/24 stater), VF, nose off flan, weight 0.596 g, maximum diameter 5.3 mm, uncertain mint, c. 600 - 550 B.C.; obverse stylized lioness(?) head right; reverse rough irregular incuse punch; $300.00 (€261.00)
Lesbos, 550 - 480 B.C.
Apotropaic magic is a ritual observance that is intended to turn away evil. Curiously, eyes were often used to ward off the "evil eye."GA71017. Billon 1/36th stater, SNG München 650; SNGvA 7716; SNG Cop 292; HGC 6 1074 (R1); BMC Troas, p. 152, 27; Traité 2/1; Rosen 548, gVF, weight 0.326 g, maximum diameter 5.9 mm, uncertain Koinon of Lesbos mint, 550 - 480 B.C.; obverse two apotropaic eyes; reverse incuse square; rare; $290.00 (€252.30)
Persian Empire, Artaxerxes II - Darius III, c. 375 - 340 B.C., Lydia, Anatolia
|Minted in Lydia, Anatolia while under Persian control, prior to Alexander the Great's conquest.|
GS72013. Silver siglos, Carradice type IV (late) C; Klein 764; SNG Kayhan 1041; Sunrise 37; cf. Rosen 679; (early - middle, A/B); BMC Arabia p. 167, 143 (middle B), VF, nice late style, toned, weight 5.431 g, maximum diameter 14.7 mm, Sardes (Sart, Turkey) mint, c. 375 - 340 B.C.; obverse kneeling-running figure of the Great King right, dagger in right, bow in left, bearded, crowned, quiver on shoulder; reverse irregular roughly rectangular punch; very rare; $280.00 (€243.60)
Ephesos(?), Ionia, c. 610 - 575 B.C.
This type is among the earliest of coins. The location of the mint is not certain but examples have been found at or near Ephesos.SH73582. Electrum 1/24 stater, SNG Kayhan 724 (Myletos?), Rosen 284 (Asia Minor uncertain), Mitchiner ATEC 105 (Ephesos), Karwiese 68 ff. (same), Weidauer -, VF, worn dies, weight 0.272 g, maximum diameter 4.9 mm, Ephesos(?) mint, c. 610- 575 B.C.; obverse crude lion's paw seen from above; reverse deep incuse square; very rare; $270.00 (€234.90)
Lesbos, 500 - 440 B.C.
Apotropaic magic is a ritual observance that is intended to turn away evil. Curiously, eyes were often used to ward off the "evil eye".GA71546. Billon 1/48th stater, BMC Troas, p. 152, 28; SNG Cop 292; SNGvA 7716; SNG München 650; Rosen 548; HGC 6 1074 (1/36th stater, R1), VF, weight 0.207 g, maximum diameter 5.8 mm, Lesbos mint, 500 - 440 B.C.; obverse two apotropaic eyes (or two barley kernels); reverse incuse square; rare; $250.00 (€217.50)
Iberian Celts, Hacksilver, c. 300 - 150 B.C.
CE71877. Silver hacksilver fragment, perhaps from a disk ingot; cf. Kim and Kroll 59; Van Alfen Hacksilber 53 ff., 15.451g, 21.6mm, $250.00 (€217.50)
Tegea, Arkadia, Peloponnesos, 423 - 400 B.C.
Alea was initially an independent Arcadian goddess, became assimilated with Athena. The temple of Athena Alea at Tegea, her oldest and most revered, burned in 394 B.C. It was magnificently rebuilt to designs by Scopas of Paros. A temple of the Doric order, it was surrounded by a triple row of columns of different orders and with reliefs of the Kalydonian boar hunt in the main pediment. In both size and splendor it surpassed all other temples in the Peloponnese. The statue of the goddess, which was made by Endoeus all of ivory, was subsequently carried to Rome by Augustus to adorn his Forum.
GA71719. Silver tetartemorion, BCD Peloponnesos 1721, HGC 5 1054, Winterthur 2256, SNG Cop -, BMC Peloponnesus -, gVF, well centered and bold strike, toned, light corrosion, small edge chip, weight 0.237 g, maximum diameter 6.7 mm, die axis 0o, Tegea (Alea, Arcadia, Peloponnese, Greece) mint, 423 - 400 B.C.; obverse helmeted head of Athena Alea left; reverse large T within shallow incuse square; very rare; $250.00 (€217.50)
Celt-Iberian, Billon Ring Money, c. 2nd Century B.C.
Rings of the type have been found in Central Europe, France, Britain, and Spain. In Spain they are often found alongside silver bar and disk ingots, and 2nd Century B.C. denarii of the Roman Republic. This example is double the size and weight of more common examples.CE72233. Silver Ring Money, large ring, debased silver, narrowing to split, cf. Alvarez-Burgos P5 (5.0 - 6.6g, no narrowing), VF, weight 13.139 g, maximum diameter 32.4 mm, c. 2nd Century B.C.; $240.00 (€208.80)
Assos, Troas, c. 480 - 450 B.C.
Assos was a harbor city on the Gulf of Adramytteion, just north of the island of Lesbos. Hermias, a student of Plato, ruled Assos for a time during the 4th century B.C. He invited Plato's most famous student, Aristotle, who lived and taught in Assos for more than three years. When the Persians took the city, they executed Hermias and Aristotle fled to Lesbos. After visiting Alexandria Troas, Paul walked to Assos and visited the Christians there (Acts 20:13).
An astragalos was a gaming piece, made from the knuckle-bone of a sheep or goat, used in antiquity for divination and games in a manner similar to dice.GA63461. Silver tetartemorion, Klein 475 (Teos), SNG Kayhan -, BMC Ionia -, SNG Cop -, SNGvA -, VF, broad flan, weight 0.203 g, maximum diameter 6.7 mm, Assos mint, 480 - 450 B.C.; obverse griffin leaping right; reverse astragalos within incuse square; extremely rare; $225.00 (€195.75)
Italy, c. 5th - 4th Century B.C.
Bronze axe heads were used for exchange across Europe even before 1000 B.C. This broken fragment of a bronze axe head dates much later, c. 5 - 4th Century B.C. It was never used to cut wood but was cast to served as currency, and was broken for change.AR70508. Bronze Aes Formatum, Aes formatum bronze axe head fragment; maximum length 39.8mm, weight 38.814g, $225.00 (€195.75)
Italy, c. 5th - 4th Century B.C.
Bronze axe heads were used for exchange across Europe even before 1000 B.C. This broken fragment of a bronze axe head dates much later, c. 5 - 4th Century B.C. It was never used to cut wood but was cast to served as currency, and was broken for change.AR70510. Bronze Aes Formatum, Aes formatum axe head fragment; maximum length 37.0mm, weight 28.261g, $225.00 (€195.75)
Sinope, Paphlagonia, c. 490 - 425 B.C.
Long used as a Hittite port, Sinope was re-founded as a Greek colony by Miletus in the 7th century B.C. Sinope flourished as the Black Sea port of a caravan route that led from the upper Euphrates valley. The city escaped Persian domination until the early 4th century B.C. In 183 B.C. it was captured by Pharnaces I and became the capital of the kingdom of Pontus. Lucullus conquered Sinope for Rome in 70 B.C., and Julius Caesar established a Roman colony there, Colonia Julia Felix, in 47 B.C. It remained with the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantines). It was a part of the Empire of Trebizond from the sacking of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204 until the capture of the city by the Seljuk Turks of Rûm in 1214.GA70807. Silver drachm, SNG BM 1359, SNG Cop 272, SNG Stancomb 750, aVF, weight 6.069 g, maximum diameter 16.4 mm, die axis 90o, Sinope mint, c. 490 - 425 B.C.; obverse head of sea eagle left, dolphin below; reverse quadripartite incuse square with two opposing quarters filled, the others stippled and with pellet in inner corner; ex Harlan J. Berk, buy-or-bid sale, July 2010 ; $200.00 (€174.00)
Persian Empire, Lydia, Darius I, Sep 522 - Oct 486 B.C.
GA73153. Silver 1/6 siglos, Carradice type II; Winzer 1.8, this denomination is otherwise unpublished in refs; cf. Klein 756 (1/4 siglos); SNG Kayhan 1027 (1/3 siglos), F, rough, weight 0.764 g, maximum diameter 8.4 mm, Lydia, Sardis mint, c. 510 - 486 B.C.; obverse kneeling-running figure of the Great King right, drawing bow, bearded, crowned, quiver at shoulder; reverse rectangular incuse; extremely rare; $200.00 (€174.00)
Persian Empire, Judaea (Yehudah), 375 - 333 B.C.
|Minted in Judaea while under Persian control, prior to Alexander the Great's conquest.|
Acorn Pendant Weight, Central Italy, c. 350 - 250 B.C.
These acorn pendants, and very similar scallop shell pendants, were probably used as weights. They may also have been worn as jewelry, and undoubtedly they were traded, like all small bronze objects, as proto-currency.
AS90927. Small acorn pendant weight, loop broken; length 32.5 mm; weight 23.412 g, $180.00 (€156.60)
Miletos(?), Ionia, c. 650 - 550 B.C.
Electrum is an alloy of gold and silver, both naturally occurring and man-made. The earliest Greek reference to electrum is in Sophocles' tragedy Antigone where Indian gold and electrum from Sardis are identified as objects of the highest value. This electrum was almost certainly the native alloy found in rivers in Asia Minor, particularly the river Pactolus. Pliny states that electrum contains a fifth part silver (80% gold).
SH73553. Electrum 1/24th stater, SNG Kayhan 713, SNGvA 1802, Rosen 370, Mitchiner ATEC 212, SNG Cop -, F, weight 0.585 g, maximum diameter 5.9 mm, Miletos(?) mint, c. 650 - 550 B.C.; obverse facing lion head; reverse roughly square incuse punch; $180.00 (€156.60)
Phokaia, Ionia, Late 6th Century B.C.
Phokaia was the most northerly of the Ionian communities in Anatolia and was the mother city of many colonies in the western Mediterranean area, including Massalia (modern Marseille, France). This type (with approximately the same weight) is identified in references variously as a diobol, a trihemiobol, a hemihekte, or a 1/12 stater.GA71828. Silver hemihekte, Klein 452 (diobol); Rosen 596 - 597 (trihemiobol); SNG Kayhan 522 (hemihekta); SNGvA 1813, VF, etched surfaces, weight 1.352 g, maximum diameter 9.2 mm, Phokaia (Foca, Turkey) mint, late 6th century B.C.; obverse head of nymph left, wearing sakkos and earring; reverse irregular quadripartite incuse square; $175.00 (€152.25)
Iberian Celts, Hacksilver, c. 300 - 150 B.C.
CE73111. Silver hacksilver fragment, cut from a disk ingot; cf. Kim and Kroll 59; Van Alfen Hacksilber 53 ff., 10.472g, 28.4mm, $175.00 (€152.25)
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