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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Themes & Provenance ▸ Numismatics ▸ Archaic OriginsView Options:  |  |  |   

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 . . .


Athens, Greece, Old Style Tetradrachm, c. 454 - 404 B.C.

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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.
SH72559. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG München 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, VF, well centered, high relief, reverse test cuts, weight 17.117 g, maximum diameter 25.5 mm, die axis 270o, Athens mint, c. 454 - 404 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; ex Forum (2007); $800.00 (€704.00)
 


Ionia, c. 600 - 550 B.C.

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The referenced coins are not very similar. It might be more appropriate to describe this coin as unpublished but perhaps the pattern is purely random and it is from the same mint and issue as the Kayhan or Von Aulock coin.
SH76827. Electrum 1/24 stater, cf. SNG Kayhan 688, SNGvA 7768, (neither very similar), Weidauer -, Rosen -, Traité I -, Mitchiner ATEC -, Zhuyuetang -, VF, weight 0.710 g, maximum diameter 6.8 mm, uncertain Ionian mint, c. 600 - 550 B.C.; obverse random(?) pattern of shapes and pellets; reverse a roughly square incuse punch with a central pellet surrounded by a random(?) pattern of curved lines; $800.00 (€704.00)
 


Phokaia, Ionia, c. 487 - 326 B.C.

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Phokaia (Phocaea) was the most northerly of the Ionian communities in Asia Minor and was the mother city of many colonies in the western Mediterranean area, including Massalia (modern Marseille, France).
SH75215. Electrum hekte, Bodenstedt 102, pl. 49 b/ß; BMC p. 212, 63; Weber 6084; Boston MFA 1920; SNGvA -; SNG Cop -, VF, fine style, crowded flan, light contact marks, weight 2.540 g, maximum diameter 10.2 mm, Phokaia (Foca, Turkey) mint, c. 477 - 388 B.C.; obverse laureate head of nymph left, hair in sakkos, seal right below; reverse quadripartite incuse square; $700.00 (€616.00)
 


Lyttus, Crete, c. 450 - 320 B.C.

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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 (€598.40)
 


Thasos, Thrace, c. 525 - 463 B.C.

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Nymphs are nature spirits who appear as beautiful, young nubile maidens. They dwell in mountains, valleys and groves, by springs and rivers, and also in trees and cool grottoes. Nymphs love to dance and sing and are the frequent target of satyrs. Satyrs are male companions of Pan and Dionysus with goat-like features, including a goat-tail, goat-like ears, and sometimes a goat-like phallus. As Dionysiac creatures, Satyrs are lovers of wine and women and ready for every physical pleasure. They are obsessed with nymphs.
SH70832. Silver stater, Le Rider Thasiennes 2, SNG Copenhagen 1009, HGC 6 331, SGCV I 1357, BMC Thrace 24, VF, minor roughness, polished, weight 8.125 g, maximum diameter 20.6 mm, die axis 0o, Thasos mint, c. 525 - 463 B.C.; obverse naked ithyphallic satyr in kneeling running attitude right carrying in his arms a struggling nymph who raises her right hand in protest, hair of both figures indicated by streaming lines; reverse quadripartite incuse square; ex CNG auction 288, lot 104; $670.00 (€589.60)
 


Mytilene, Lesbos, c. 377 - 326 B.C.

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Mytilene was famous in ancient times for its great output of electrum coins struck from the late 6th through mid - 4th centuries B.C. The usual denomination was the hekte (1/6th stater). Warwick Wroth noted in the British Museum Catalog, "The Sixths of [this Lesbos electrum series] form one of the most beautiful coin-series of the ancient world. This will be evident from a glance."
SH75216. Electrum hekte, Bodenstedt Em. 86, pl. 56 f., -/η; HGC 6 1012 (R1); BMC Troas p. 163, 71, pl. XXXIII, 14; SNG Cop 319; SNGvA 7738; Traité II 2190, VF, fine style, contact marks, die wear, reverse off center low but full face on flan, weight 2.502 g, maximum diameter 11.3 mm, die axis 0o, Mytilene mint, c. 377 - 326 B.C.; obverse head of Athena facing slightly right, wearing crested Attic helmet, earring, and necklace; reverse draped bust of Hermes right, petasos on string hanging behind his neck, all within a linear square, trace of square incuse from die larger than the flan; rare; $650.00 (€572.00)
 


Athens, Greece, Old Style Tetradrachm, c. 454 - 404 B.C.

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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, SNG München 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, F, centered, obverse rough, test cuts, weight 16.302 g, maximum diameter 26.1 mm, die axis 45o, Athens mint, c. 454 - 404 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; $550.00 (€484.00)
 


Mytilene, Lesbos, c. 454 - 427 B.C.

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Mytilene was famous in ancient times for its great output of electrum coins struck from the late 6th through mid - 4th centuries B.C. The usual denomination was the hekte (1/6th stater). Warwick Wroth noted in the British Museum Catalog, "The Sixths of [this Lesbos electrum series] form one of the most beautiful coin-series of the ancient world. This will be evident from a glance."
SH76128. Electrum hekte, Bodenstedt 37; BMC Lesbos p. 159, 39; SNGvA 1700; HGC 6 963; SNG Cop -, F, high relief, weight 2.442 g, maximum diameter 10.0 mm, die axis 180o, Mytilene mint, c. 454 - 427 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Silenos right; reverse two ram heads butting each other, palmette above, all in incuse square; $550.00 (€484.00)
 


Akragas, Sicily, 450 - 440 B.C.

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Located on a plateau overlooking Sicily's southern coast, Akragas was founded c. 582 B.C. by colonists from Gela. It grew rapidly, becoming second only to Syracuse in importance on Sicily, but was sacked by Carthage in 406 B.C. and never fully recovered. It was renamed Agrigentum after it fell to Rome in 210 B.C.
GI76829. Cast bronze trias, Calciati I, p. 143, 1; Westermark Fifth pl. I, 1; SNG Cop 61; SNG ANS 1015; SNG Lloyd 832; HGC 2 126 (R1);, VF, green patina, earthen deposits, some light corrosion, weight 16.186 g, Akragas mint, 450 - 440 B.C.; cast near tooth-shaped flattened cone form, four pellets on flat top, sea-eagle standing left on one side, crab opposite; rare; $400.00 (€352.00)
 


Ionia, c. 520 - 490 B.C.

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Bodenstedt attributed this type to Mytilene. J. Spier, however, notes its Lydo-Milesian standard may indicate it was minted in Ionia, perhaps during the Ionian Revolt, see NC 1988, p. 221.
SH76665. Electrum 1/48 stater, Bodenstedt p. 183 and pl. 50, E2; cf. SNG Kayhan 734 (1/24 stater), Rosen 277 (1/12 stater), Weidauer -, Zhuyuetang -, SNGvA -, SNG Cop -, VF, perfect centering, light scratch, weight 0.292 g, maximum diameter 5.0 mm, uncertain Ionian mint, c. 520 - 490 B.C.; obverse head of calf right, neck ending in a row of dots; reverse roughly square incuse punch; extremely rare; $320.00 (€281.60)
 


Lesbos, 550 - 480 B.C.

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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; $260.00 (€228.80)
 


Lesbos, 500 - 440 B.C.

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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; $225.00 (€198.00)
 


Iberian Celts, Hacksilver, c. 300 - 150 B.C.

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CE73560. Silver hacksilver fragment, cut, perhaps from a disk ingot; cf. Kim and Kroll 59; Van Alfen Hacksilber 53 ff., 26.964g, 32.7mm, weight 23.758 g, maximum diameter 30.2 mm, $225.00 (€198.00)
 


Sinope, Paphlagonia, c. 490 - 425 B.C.

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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 (Sinop, Turkey) 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 (€176.00)
 


Phokaia, Ionia, c. 510 - 494 B.C.

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Although this obol with the head right is unpublished in references we know of six examples sold at auction in the past decade. Examples with the head right are approximately 0.8 grams, not the approximately 1.3 grams normal for the type with the head left.
GA71653. Silver obol, Unpublished in references; cf. Klein 454 (head left), VF, some encrustation, corrosion, weight 0.796 g, maximum diameter 10.2 mm, Phokaia (Foca, Turkey) mint, c. 510 - 494 B.C.; obverse head of nymph right, wearing sakkos and earring; reverse quadripartite incuse square; very rare; $200.00 (€176.00)
 


Himera, Sicily, c. 472-413 B.C.

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In 409 B.C., Carthage attacked Himera. The city was unprepared; its fortifications weak. At first they were supported about 4000 auxiliaries from Syracuse, but their general, Diocles, seized with panic for the safety of Syracuse itself, abandoned Himera. The city was utterly destroyed, its buildings, even its temples, were razed to the ground. More than 3000 prisoners were put to death by General Hannibal Mago as a human sacrifice to the memory of his grandfather General Hamilcar who had been defeated at the Battle of Himera in 480 B.C.
GA76588. Silver obol, cf. SNG Cop 312; SNG München 355; SNG Lloyd 1027; BMC Sicily p. 81, 47; SNG ANS -; Klein -, VF, obverse off center, reverse legend weak, uneven toning, a little rough, weight 0.586 g, maximum diameter 10.6 mm, Himera mint, c. 472-413 B.C.; obverse bearded male (Kronos?) head right, wearing fillet (hair band); reverse HIMEPA (or similar), Corinthian helmet right, no crest, within shallow incuse; rare; $175.00 (€154.00)
 


Persian Empire, Lydia, Anatolia, Artaxerxes I - Artaxerxes II, c. 450 - 375 B.C.

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This type was minted in Lydia in Anatolia, while under Persian control, prior to Alexander the Great's conquest. The Persian or Achaemenid Empire (c. 550 - 330 B.C.) was the largest empire in ancient history extending across Asia, Africa and Europe, including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, parts of Central Asia, Asia Minor, Thrace and Macedonia, much of the Black Sea coastal regions, Iraq, northern Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine and Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and much of ancient Egypt as far west as Libya.Persian Empire
GA76180. Silver siglos, Carradice Type IIIb (late), pl. XIV, 36 ff.; SNG Kayhan 1029; Rosen 671 - 672; SGCV II 4682; Klein 761; Carradice Price p. 69 and pl. 18, 79 ff., VF, well centered, die wear, weight 5.473 g, maximum diameter 16.2 mm, Sardes (Sart, Turkey) mint, c. 450 - 375 B.C.; obverse kneeling-running figure of the Great King right, spear in right, bow in left, bearded, crowned, stylistic drapery with broad semi-circular sweep of folds; banker's mark; reverse rectangular punch; $170.00 (€149.60)
 


Persian Empire, Judaea (Yehudah), 375 - 333 B.C.

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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:, owl standing left, head facing, olive spray right; rare; $160.00 (€140.80)
 


Persian Empire, Lydia, Anatolia, Darius II - Artaxerxes II, c. 420 - 375 B.C.

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This type was minted in Lydia in Anatolia, while under Persian control, prior to Alexander the Great's conquest. The Persian or Achaemenid Empire (c. 550 - 330 B.C.) was the largest empire in ancient history extending across Asia, Africa and Europe, including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, parts of Central Asia, Asia Minor, Thrace and Macedonia, much of the Black Sea coastal regions, Iraq, northern Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine and Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and much of ancient Egypt as far west as Libya.Persian Empire
GA76181. Silver siglos, Carradice Type IV (middle) B; Carradice Price p. 73 and pl. 19, 223; BMC Arabia p. 171, 172 ff., pl. XXVII, 7 ff.; Rosen 678; SGCV II 4683, F, toned, scratches, punch on reverse, weight 5.520 g, maximum diameter 15.2 mm, obverse Kneeling-running figure of the Great King right, dagger in right, bow in left, bearded, crowned; reverse irregular oblong punch; $160.00 (€140.80)
 


Iberian Celts, Hacksilver, c. 300 - 150 B.C.

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CE73111. Silver hacksilver fragment, cut from a disk ingot; cf. Kim and Kroll 59; Van Alfen Hacksilber 53 ff., 10.472g, 28.4mm, $155.00 (€136.40)
 


Salamis, Cyprus, Evagoras I, 411 - 374 B.C.

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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; $140.00 (€123.20)
 


Neandreia, Troas, c. 410 - 370 B.C.

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Neandreia, Troas was located about 9 km east of Alexandria Troas. In 310 B.C., Antigonus I Monophthalmus founded Antigonia Troas (renamed Alexandria Troas by Lysimachos in 301 B.C.) and moved the citizens of nearby cities, including Neandreia to his new city. In the 1st century A.D., Pliny the Elder listed Neandreia among the settlements in the Troad which no longer existed.
GA71831. Silver obol, SNG Cop 446; SNGvA 7628; SNG München 293; SNG Kayhan 77; SNG Ashmolean 1170; Klein 318; BMC Troas p. 73, 2 var (ram left), VF, toned, slightly grainy, weight 0.638 g, maximum diameter 9.3 mm, die axis 0o, Neandreia mint, c. 410 - 370 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right; reverse NEA-N, ram standing right on ground line, within incuse square; rare; $140.00 (€123.20)
 


Roman Republic, c. 5th - 4th Century B.C.

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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, $135.00 (€118.80)
 


Mende, Chalcidice, Macedon, c. 510 - 480 B.C.

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Mende was an ancient colony of Eretria, on the SW side of Cape Poseidion in Pallene. Its coins illustrate some forgotten myth of Dionysos, his companion Seilenos, and an ass. The wine of Mende was famous and is frequently mentioned by ancient writers. It is unlikely that Mende struck any coins after it was first captured by Philip in 358 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; $135.00 (€118.80)
 


Iberian Celts, Hacksilver, c. 300 - 150 B.C.

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CE72213. hacksilver fragment, cut on four sides, perhaps from a disk ingot; cf. Kim and Kroll 59; Van Alfen Hacksilber 53 ff., 3.805g, 11.3mm, VF, weight 6.405 g, maximum diameter 17.0 mm, $125.00 (€110.00)
 


Roman Republic, c. 5th - 4th Century B.C.

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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.
AR71374. Bronze Aes Rude, SRCV I 505; Thurlow-Vecchi pl. 2, maximum length 49.8 mm, 116.233 g, $120.00 (€105.60)
 


Roman Republic, c. 5th - 4th Century B.C.

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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.
AR71375. Bronze Aes Rude, SRCV I 505; Thurlow-Vecchi pl. 2, maximum length 70.2 mm, 170.097g, $120.00 (€105.60)
 


Roman Republic, c. 5th - 4th Century B.C.

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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.
AR71376. Bronze Aes Rude, SRCV I 505; Thurlow-Vecchi pl. 2, maximum length 55.1 mm, 93.553 g, $120.00 (€105.60)
 


Roman Republic, c. 5th - 4th Century B.C.

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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.
AR71378. Bronze Aes Rude, SRCV I 505; Thurlow-Vecchi pl. 2, maximum length 63.8 mm, 133.243 g, $120.00 (€105.60)
 


Kebren, Troas, c. 480 - 450 B.C.

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Cebren was named for the river-god, whose river was located near Troy. He was the son of Oceanus and Tethys and father of Asterope, Hesperia, and Oenone. Around 310 B.C., Antigonus moved the residents of Cebren to Alexandria Troas, his new city.
GA71662. Silver diobol, cf. SNG Cop 254; SNGvA 1544; SNG Ashmolean 1078; BMC Troas p. 43, 7, VF, toned, nice style, tight flan, weight 0.951 g, maximum diameter 9.4 mm, Kebren mint, c. 480 - 450 B.C.; obverse ram head right, KEBP below; reverse incuse square with an irregular quadripartite/cruciform pattern; rare; $120.00 (€105.60)
 




  



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Catalog current as of Saturday, February 13, 2016.
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Archaic Origins