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Home>Catalog>CollectingThemes>Numismatics>ArchaicOrigins PAGE 1/3123»»»

Archaic Origins

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.

BEHOLD portrayed in miniature, yet clear,
The changing seasons of Hellenic art;
Fair spring-time, when dim haunting visions start
Forth into life, and forms divine appear . . .


Ionia (Uncertain City), c. 600 - 550 B.C.
Click for a larger photo
SH90673. Electrum hemihekte, Unpublished in references but examples (all from the same dies) known from trade; Naville VII, 1924 (Bement Collection), lot 1435, gVF, weight 1.282 g, maximum diameter 8.5 mm, uncertain Ionian mint, c. 600 - 550 B.C.; obverse siren standing left, with the body of a bird and human head wearing cap with a long curl; reverse irregular square incuse punch; ex Roma Numismatics e-Sale 3 (30 Nov 2013), lot 201; very rare; $1000.00 (€750.00)

Lyttus, Crete, c. 450 - 320 B.C.
Click for a larger photo 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; $760.00 (€570.00)

Himera, Sicily, 430 - 420 B.C.
Click for a larger photo 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; $650.00 (€487.50)

Phokaia, Ionia, c. 387 - 326 B.C.
Click for a larger photo Omphale, queen of Lydia, bought Herakles as a slave after the Delphic Oracle Xenoclea said he must be sold into slavery to purify himself after murdering Iphitus and stealing the Delphic tripod. Omphale forced Herakles to do women's work and wear women's clothing. Meanwhile, as shown on this coin, Omphale wore the Nemean Lion skin and carried his club. After Omphale freed Herakles, she took him as her husband.
SH90670. Electrum hekte, Bodenstedt 107; SNG Cop 1029; SNGvA 2133; SNG Fitzwilliam 4565; Boston MFA 1917; BMC Ionia, p. 211, 55, VF, weight 2.477 g, maximum diameter 10.8 mm, die axis 0o, Phokaia (Foca, Turkey) mint, c. 330 B.C.; obverse head of Omphale left, wearing earring and Herakles' lion skin, his club at shoulder, seal below; reverse quadripartite mill-sail incuse square; $600.00 (€450.00)

Ionia (Uncertain City), c. 600 B.C.
Click for a larger photo Third example of this early electrum fraction known to Forum.
SH72612. Electrum 1/24th stater, unpublished in standard references, Ponterio & Associates, sale 152 (NYINC, 8 Jan 2010), lot 5874 (same dies); FORVM SH21301 (same), VF, weight 0.532 g, maximum diameter 6.4 mm, uncertain Ionian mint, c. 600 B.C.; obverse head of stag left; reverse incuse punch with curved lines; $550.00 (€412.50)

Roman Republic, Cast Coinage, c. 280 - 265 B.C.
Click for a larger photo
RR65391. Aes grave (cast) semuncia, Sydenham 14, Thurlow-Vecchi 7, Crawford 14/7, Historia Numorum Italy 274, F, weight 14.86 g, maximum diameter 25.2 mm, die axis 90o, Italian mint, c. 280 - 265 B.C.; obverse acorn; reverse large Σ (mark of value); $360.00 (€270.00)

Iberian Celts, Hacksilver, c. 300 - 150 B.C.
Click for a larger photo  
CE70515. Silver hacksilver fragment, cut, perhaps from a disk ingot; cf. Kim and Kroll 59; Van Alfen Hacksilber 53 ff., 26.964g, 32.7mm, $320.00 (€240.00)

Celt-Iberian, Billon Ring Money, c. 2nd Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo 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.; $300.00 (€225.00)

Lesbos, 550 - 480 B.C.
Click for a larger photo 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 (€217.50)

Assos, Troas, c. 480 - 450 B.C.
Click for a larger photo 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; $250.00 (€187.50)

Sinope, Paphlagonia, c. 490 - 425 B.C.
Click for a larger photo 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 ; $250.00 (€187.50)

Lesbos, 500 - 440 B.C.
Click for a larger photo 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 (€187.50)

Italy, c. 5th - 4th Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo 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 (€168.75)

Italy, c. 5th - 4th Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo 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 (€168.75)

Persian Empire, Judaea (Yehudah), 375 - 333 B.C.
Click for a larger photo
Minted in Judaea while under Persian control, prior to Alexander the Great's conquest. Click here to see a map of the Persian Empire about 500 B.C.
JD59398. Silver obol, Meshorer TJC 5, Hendin 1051, aF, weight 0.487 g, maximum diameter 8.4 mm, c. 375 - 333 B.C.; obverse oriental style head of Athena; reverse Aramaic inscription: "YHD" (Yehudah), owl standing left, head facing, olive spray right; rare; $200.00 (€150.00)

Therma, Macedonia, 510 - 480 B.C.
Click for a larger photo Around 315 B.C., King Cassander of Macedonia, founded Thessalonica on or near the site of the ancient town of Therma.
SH63538. Silver tetrobol, cf. AMNG III p. 117, 30; Rosen 115, SNG Cop 343, SNG ANS -, VF, weight 2.400 g, maximum diameter 12.8 mm, die axis 225o, Macedonia, Thermai mint, 510 - 480 B.C.; obverse Pegasos forepart right, with curved wing; reverse irregular incuse punch; ex Münhandlung ATHENA GmbH (Munich); rare; $200.00 (€150.00)

Lesbos, c. 550 - 440 B.C.
Click for a larger photo In 570 B.C., Lesbos took part in the founding of Naucrate, the Greek Colony in Egypt. This coin, depicting an African, and others with Egyptian related types, likely boast of Lesbos' role at Naucrate.
GA67792. Billon 1/12 stater, SNG Cop 296; SNGvA 7715; BMC Troas p. 153, 42 - 44; SNG München -, VF, toned, weight 0.718 g, maximum diameter 8.4 mm, die axis 0o, uncertain Koinon of Lesbos mint, c. 550 - 440 B.C.; obverse head of a Nubian right; reverse rough quadripartite incuse square punch; rare; $200.00 (€150.00)

Acorn Pendant Weight, Central Italy, c. 350 - 250 B.C.
Click for a larger photo 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, $200.00 (€150.00)

Dikaia, Macedonia, 5th Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo Apparently unpublished in major references. The referenced Pecunem Gitbud & Naumann coin is very similar, but from different dies. The referenced VAuctions coin, presumably a later issue, is also very similar but with ∆IKAI and a dotted square border around the grapes within a shallower square incuse. Dikaia was located between the rivers Nestos and Hebros.
GA69941. Silver hemiobol, cf. Pecunem Gitbud & Naumann auction 11, lot 89; VAuctions 270, lot 112; Schönert-Geiss -; SNG Cop -; SNG ANS -; BMC Macedonia -; Klein -; Rosen -, VF, weight 0.451 g, maximum diameter 7.3 mm, die axis 180o, Dikaia mint, 5th century B.C.; obverse head of bull right; reverse bunch of grapes on stem within incuse square; extremely rare; $180.00 (€135.00)

Italy, c. 5th - 4th Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo 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.
AR90956. Bronze Aes Formatum, Aes formatum bronze axe head fragment; length 43.4mm, weight 30.824g, $180.00 (€135.00)

Salamis, Cyprus, Evagoras I, 411 - 374 B.C.
Click for a larger photo Evagoras claimed descent from Teucer, the son of Telamon and half-brother of Ajax. His family had long ruled Salamis. During his childhood Phoenicians took Salamis and he was exiled to Cilicia. He returned secretly in 410 with 50 followers and retook his throne. Expecting an eventual Persian attack, he cultivated the friendship of the Athenians. For a time, he also maintained friendly relations with Persia and secured the aid of Artaxerxes II for Athens against Sparta. He took part in the battle of Cnidus of 394 B.C. which he provided most of the resources for and in which the Spartan fleet was defeated thanks to his efforts, and for this service his statue was placed by the Athenians side by side with that of Conon in the Ceramicus. Relations with Persia deteriorated and from 391 they were at war. Aided by the Athens and Egypt, Evagoras extended his rule over the greater part of Cyprus, crossed over to Asia Minor, took several cities in Phoenicia (including Tyre), and persuaded the Cilicians to revolt. Under the peace of Antalcidas in 387, Athens abandoned him and recognized Persian lordship over Cyprus. The Persian generals Tiribazus and Orontes at invaded Cyprus in 385 B.C. Evagoras managed to cut off Persian resupplies and the starving troops rebelled. The war then turned in the Persian favor when Evagoras' fleet was destroyed at the Battle of Citium, and he was compelled to flee to Salamis. Here, although closely blockaded, Evagoras managed to hold his ground, and took advantage of a quarrel between the two Persian generals to conclude peace in 376. Evagoras was allowed to remain nominally king of Salamis, but in reality a vassal of Persia, to which he was to pay a yearly tribute. The chronology of the last part of his reign is uncertain. In 374 he was assassinated by a eunuch from motives of private revenge. He was succeeded by his son, Nicocles.
GS68007. Silver 1/12 siglos, Bank of Cyprus 9; BMC Cyprus p. 55, 44; cf. SNG Cop 42 (0.80, obol); Tziambazis 119 (0.27g, 1/48 siglos), VF, weight 0.355 g, maximum diameter 9.2 mm, die axis 0o, Salamis mint, 411 - 374 B.C.; obverse young male head right, curly short hair, dot circle border; reverse smooth blank (as struck); rare; $160.00 (€120.00)

Roman Republic, c. 5th - 4th Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo Aes Rude is the earliest type of money used by the population of central Italy. They are actually irregular pieces of bronze with no marks or designs. More advanced types of currency were used later: Aes Signatum and Aes Grave, and in the end, normal struck coins.
AR70827. Bronze Aes Rude, SRCV I 505; Thurlow-Vecchi pl. 2, maximum length 72.9 mm, 218.3 g, $155.00 (€116.25)

Roman Republic, c. 5th - 4th Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo Aes Rude is the earliest type of money used by the population of central Italy. They are actually irregular pieces of bronze with no marks or designs. More advanced types of currency were used later: Aes Signatum and Aes Grave, and in the end, normal struck coins.
AR70828. Bronze Aes Rude, SRCV I 505; Thurlow-Vecchi pl. 2, maximum length 64 mm, 238.2 g, $155.00 (€116.25)

Osco-Latin, Central Italy, Late 4th - Early 3rd Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo These small cast bronze scallop shells were used as money in central Italy.
RR90918. Cast bronze Aes Formatum, cf. G. Fallai, IAPN 8, plate 6, 2-2e; Alvarez-Burgos P28; Thurlow-Vecchi -; molded from bipod shell, weight 22.675 g, maximum diameter 28.4 mm, $155.00 (€116.25)

Leontini, Sicily, c. 476 - 455 B.C.
Click for a larger photo Leontini was founded by colonists from Naxos in 729 B.C. Six miles inland, it is the only Greek settlement in Sicily not located on the coast, Originally held by the Sicels, the site was seized by the Greeks to gain control of the fertile plain to the north.
GS65784. Silver hemilitra, SNG München 548; Boehringer Leontini B; cf. HGC 2 688 (R2, obol); SNG ANS 216 (obol, finer style); BMC Sicily p. 88, 22 (same); SNG Cop 342 (same), aVF, toned, crude style (perhaps a barbaric imitative), weight 0.280 g, maximum diameter 9.5 mm, die axis 0o, Leontini (or unofficial?) mint, c. 476 - 466 B.C.; obverse crude facing lion scalp, dot border; reverse LE/ON (retrograde), barley grain, within shallow round incuse; from the old stock of a retiring Ohio dealer acquired by Forum in 2012; very rare; $150.00 (€112.50)

Celtic Ring Money, Black Sea Region, c. 800 - 100 B.C.
Click for a larger photo Ring money of bronze, of silver, and of gold was used by the Celts in trade from Ireland to the Danube region. The dating of Celtic ring money is uncertain. Some authorities date the use of ring money from 800 to 500 B.C., but it may have been used as late as 100 B.C. Some believe the bronze rings are actually just strap fittings, not a trade currency. Undoubtedly they were used as fittings. Others claim, however, that although the rings vary in weight; they are all multiples of a standard unit, indicating a uniform principle regulated their size - i.e., their use as coinage. Bronze rings have been found in quite large hoards, which also strongly indicates they were used as money.
CE70623. Bronze Ring Money, Topalov Apollonia I p. 88; Victoor -; numerous knobs, 41.7mm diameter, 23.333g, probably 3rd - 2nd century B.C.; $150.00 (€112.50)

Mende, Chalcidice, Macedon, c. 510 - 480 B.C.
Click for a larger photo Mende was an ancient colony of Eretria, on the south-west side of Cape Poseidion in Pallene. The types of its coins apparently illustrate some forgotten myth of Dionysos, with his companion Seilenos, and an ass. The wine of Mende was famous and is frequently mentioned by ancient writers. It may be doubted whether any coins were struck at Mende after its first capture by Philip in 358 B.C. Here, as at Acanthus,etc., the Euboïc standard gave way to the Phoenician about 424 B.C.
GA90295. Silver tritartemorion, AMNG III.2, 8; SNG ANS 307; SNG Berry 34, VF, porous surfaces, uneven tone, weight 0.292 g, maximum diameter 6.1 mm, die axis 0o, Mende mint, c. 510 - 480 B.C.; obverse head and neck of ass right; pellet at truncation; reverse mill-sail pattern incuse; ex CNG auction 249, lot 50; scarce; $150.00 (€112.50)

Three Rings, Celtic Ring Money, Black Sea Region, c. 800 - 100 B.C.
Click for a larger photo Ring money of bronze, of silver, and of gold was used by the Celts in trade from Ireland to the Danube region. The dating of Celtic ring money is uncertain. Some authorities date the use of ring money from 800 to 500 B.C., but it may have been used as late as 100 B.C. Some believe the bronze rings are actually just strap fittings, not a trade currency. Undoubtedly they were used as fittings. Others claim, however, that although the rings vary in weight; they are all multiples of a standard unit, indicating a uniform principle regulated their size - i.e., their use as coinage. Bronze rings have been found in quite large hoards, which also strongly indicates they were used as money.
CE90709. Bronze Ring Money, 3 rings; cf. Topalov Apollonia I p. 95, c. 18 - 26 mm, VF, $150.00 (€112.50)

Neapolis, Macedonia, c. 500 - 450 B.C.
Click for a larger photo While some examples of this hemiobol have an odd style gorgon, this example is of a style similar to Neapolis staters. Nevertheless, Klien's attribution of the type to Neapolis is less than certain.
GS68401. Silver hemiobol, Klein 154, SNG ANS -, SNG Cop -, Rosen -, Tzamalis -, VF, porosity, weight 0.345 g, maximum diameter 7.0 mm, die axis 270o, Macedonia, Neapolis mint, c. 500 - 450 B.C.; obverse Gorgon; reverse Kantharos within a square incuse; very rare; $145.00 (€108.75)

Apollonia Pontika, Thrace, Late 5th - Early 4th Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo Apollonia Pontica was founded as Antheia by Greek colonists from Miletus in the 7th century B.C. They soon changed its name to Apollonia after building a temple for Apollo. The temple contained a colossal statue of Apollo by Calamis, which was later taken to Rome and placed in the Capitol. The anchor on the coinage is evidence of the importance of its maritime trade.
GA64065. Silver hemiobol, SNG Stancomb 32; SNG BM 149, VF, grainy, weight 0.417 g, maximum diameter 6.8 mm, die axis 90o, Apollonia Pontica (Sozopol, Bulgaria) mint, late 5th - early 4th century B.C.; obverse anchor with perpendicular crossbar and circular loop on end, two pellets; reverse incuse curled swastika pattern; $140.00 (€105.00)



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Catalog current as of Thursday, December 18, 2014.
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Archaic Origins