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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 . . .


Ionia, c. 650 - 600 B.C., Rough Irregular "Typeless" Type

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Some sales catalogs describe similar coins as the striated type. The roughly parallel lines on the striated type appear to be impressed into the "obverse" by lines cut into the anvil. On this coin, it appears the rough irregular "typeless" surface is simply flattened rough pre-strike features from the raw irregular nugget-like "planchet." Based on the apparent wear on the reverse punch, huge numbers of this type may have been struck. Very few have survived. This is the first example handled by Forum.
SH77378. Electrum 1/24 stater, cf. SNGvA 7768, SNG Kayhan 682, Traité I 14 -15, Weidauer -, Rosen -, VF, weight 0.647 g, maximum diameter 5.7 mm, uncertain Ionian mint, 650 - 600 B.C.; obverse flattened rough irregular "typeless" surface; reverse roughly square incuse pyramidal punch with striated sides, divided roughly in half by a raised irregular line, striated sides and the irregular line appear to be the result of wear; very rare; $1500.00 (€1335.00)
 


Ionia, c. 600 - 550 B.C.

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Unpublished in the standard references but several known from auction listings.
SH77380. Electrum hemihekte, Lydo-Milesian standard; cf. CNG auction (9 Mar 2016), lot 156 (same dies); Elektron I 9 corr.; Weidauer -; Traité I -; SNG Kayhan -, VF, light marks, weight 1.189 g, maximum diameter 7.2 mm, uncertain Ionian mint, c. 600 - 550 BC; obverse crude scarab beetle(?); reverse irregular six-lobed incuse pattern; very rare; $1080.00 (€961.20)
 


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, Dewing 1611, 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); $720.00 (€640.80)
 


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; $720.00 (€640.80)
 


Phokaia, Ionia, c. 477 - 388 B.C.

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Phocaea, or Phokaia, was the northernmost Ionian city, on the boundary with Aeolis. The Phocaeans were the first Greeks to make long sea-voyages, developed a thriving seafaring economy, became a great naval power, and founded the colonies Massalia (Marseille, France), Emporion (Empúries, Spain) and Elea (Velia, Italy). They remained independent until all of mainland Ionia fell to Croesus of Lydia (c. 560-545 B.C.). In 546 B.C., Lydia was conquered by Cyrus the Great of Persia. After the Greeks defeated Xerxes I, Phocaea joined the Delian League, but later rebelled with the rest of Ionia. In 387 B.C., Phocaea returned to Persian control. After Alexander, it fell under Seleucid, then Attalid, and finally Roman rule.
SH79729. Electrum hekte, Bodenstedt 93b; Boston MFA 1921; SNGvA 7954; BMC Ionia p. 212, 63; SNG Cop -, aVF, attractive style, tight flan, light bumps and scratches, closed crack, weight 2.524 g, maximum diameter 10.0 mm, Phocaea mint, c. 477 - 388 B.C.; obverse head of a female (nymph?) left, wearing drop earring, wavy hair on forehead and before ear, sakkos covering most of hair including chignon, small seal behind; reverse quadripartite incuse square; $660.00 (€587.40)
 


Ionia, c. 625 - 600 B.C.

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SH77549. Electrum 1/24 stater, Elektron I 51, cf. Rosen 269 (hemihekte) and 309 (1/96th stater), Weidauer-, Traité -, SNG Kayhan -, VF, well centered, bumps and marks, earthen deposits, weight 0.537 g, maximum diameter 5.5 mm, uncertain Ionian mint, c. 625 - 600 B.C.; obverse raised square; reverse incuse square punch; $600.00 (€534.00)
 


Roman Republic, Anonymous, c. 230 B.C.

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In 230 B.C., Rome sent envoys to the Illyrian Queen Teuta to obtain her aid in ending attacks and murders of Roman merchants by Illyrian pirates. After the Roman ambassador Lucius Coruncanius and the Issaean ambassador Cleemporus offended Queen Teuta, the were murdered at sea by her soldiers. In response, Roman forces occupied the island of Corcyra with the aim of humbling Teuta.
SH77477. Aes grave (cast) triens, Libral standard; Vecchi ICC 68; HN Italy 328; Crawford 24/5; Thurlow-Vecchi 33; Haeberlin pp. 60-61, 1-76 pl. 25, 8-11, gF, nice green patina, pitting, marks, weight 58.717 g, maximum diameter 40.2 mm, Rome mint, c. 230 B.C.; obverse horse prancing left, two pellets above and two pellets bellow (mark of value); reverse wheel of six spokes, four pellets (mark of value) between spokes; From the Andrew McCabe Collection; very rare; $540.00 (€480.60)
 


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, Dewing 1611, 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; $500.00 (€445.00)
 


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 (€356.00)
 


Rhodes, Caria, c. 394 - 304 B.C.

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Rhodes was an important slave-trading center, best known for The Colossus of Rhodes. The Colossus of Rhodes, the sixth of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was a huge statue of Helios measuring 32 meters (100 feet) high, built at Rhodes in 280 B.C. but destroyed by an earthquake later in that century. It has inspired many later sculptures including the Statue of Liberty.
GS76570. Silver didrachm, Ashton Rhodes 98; SNG Keckman 436; SNG Cop 728; SNGvA 2790; BMC Caria p. 233, 27; SGCV II 5037, aEF, attractive style, high relief, well centered on a slightly irregular flan, corrosion, weight 6.588 g, maximum diameter 20.1 mm, die axis 0o, Rhodes mint, c. 340 B.C.; obverse head of Helios facing slightly right; reverse rose with bud to right, grape cluster and E lower left left, PO∆ION above, all within an incuse square; $330.00 (€293.70)
 


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; $200.00 (€178.00)
 


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 (€178.00)
 


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, $200.00 (€178.00)
 


Kebren, Troas, 5th Century B.C.

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Kebren (or Cebren, or Cebrene) was in the middle Skamander valley in the Troad region of Anatolia. Its remains have been located in the forested foothills of Mount Ida (modern Kaz Dagi), approximately 7 km to the south of the Skamander. Archaeological remains suggest that in the mid-7th and early 6th century B.C. Kebren as a mixed Greco-Anatolian community. Writing in the early 4th century B.C., Xenophon implies that the population of Kebren was still both Greek and Anatolian. In the 5th century B.C., Kebren was a member of the Delian League and is listed in the Hellespontine district paying tribute to Athens. Following the defeat of Athens at the end of the Peloponnesian War in 404 B.C., Kebren came under the control of Zenis, the tyrant of Dardanus, and his wife Mania who together controlled the Troad on behalf of the Persian satrap Pharnabazos. Kebren was captured by the Spartan commander Dercylidas in 399 B.C., but soon after returned to Persian control. In 360 to 359, the Greek mercenary commander Charidemus briefly captured the city before being repelled by the Persian satrap Artabazos. At some point in the 4th century B.C. Kebren produced coinage depicting a satrap's head as the obverse type, indicating the city's close relationship with its Persian overlords. Kebren ceased to exist as an independent city about 310 B.C., when Antigonus I Monophthalmus founded Antigonia Troas (after 301 B.C. renamed Alexandria Troas) and included Kebren in the synoecism.
GA76288. Silver obol, Klein 312, SNG Kayhan 1051 - 1052 (Lykia?), SNG Cop -, SNGvA -, BMC Troas -, aEF, toned, grainy etched surfaces, weight 0.570 g, maximum diameter 7.3 mm, Kebren mint, 5th Century B.C.; obverse head of ram left; reverse irregularly divided incuse square; rare; $200.00 (€178.00)
 


Osco-Latin, Central Italy, Late 4th - Early 3rd Century B.C.

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GA77417. Cast bronze Aes Formatum, cf. G. Fallai, IAPN 8, pl. 6, 2-2e; Alvarez-Burgos P28; Thurlow-Vecchi -; molded from bipod shell, weight 13.925 g, maximum diameter 23.5 mm, uncertain Osco-Latin mint, late 4th - early 3rd century B.C.; $200.00 (€178.00)
 


Osco-Latin, Central Italy, Late 4th - Early 3rd Century B.C.

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GA77838. Cast bronze Aes Formatum, cf. G. Fallai, IAPN 8, pl. 6, 2-2e; Alvarez-Burgos P28; Thurlow-Vecchi -; molded from bipod shell, VF, weight 17.248 g, maximum diameter 30.6 mm, uncertain Osco-Latin mint, late 4th - early 3rd century B.C.; $200.00 (€178.00)
 


Osco-Latin, Central Italy, Late 4th - Early 3rd Century B.C.

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GA77842. Cast bronze Aes Formatum, cf. G. Fallai, IAPN 8, pl. 6, 2-2e; Alvarez-Burgos P28; Thurlow-Vecchi -; molded from bipod shell, VF, weight 22.892 g, maximum diameter 30.3 mm, uncertain Osco-Latin mint, late 4th - early 3rd century B.C.; $200.00 (€178.00)
 


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 (€155.75)
 


Eion, Macedonia, c. 500 - 437 B.C.

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Eion was only about three miles from Amphipolis and from the late 5th century onwards served merely as a seaport of its much larger neighbor. The denomination is variously described as a diobol or trihemiobol. The significance of the obverse type is not clear, but presumably makes reference to the characteristic fauna of the region at that time.
GA77599. Silver trihemiobol, SNG ANS 280 - 283, SNG Cop 180 corr., SNG Berry 29, Klein 151, BMC Macedonia p. 75, 21, aVF, well centered, light toning, edge split, porous, weight 0.661 g, maximum diameter 11.5 mm, Eion mint, c. 500 - 437 B.C.; obverse goose standing right, looking back, lizard above; reverse quadripartite incuse square; $175.00 (€155.75)
 


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 (€142.40)
 


Osco-Latin, Central Italy, Late 4th - Early 3rd Century B.C.

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GA77419. Cast bronze Aes Formatum, cf. G. Fallai, IAPN 8, pl. 6, 2-2e; Alvarez-Burgos P28; Thurlow-Vecchi -; molded from bipod shell, VF, edge chip, crack, weight 22.873 g, maximum diameter 30.5 mm, uncertain Osco-Latin mint, late 4th - early 3rd century B.C.; $160.00 (€142.40)
 


Osco-Latin, Central Italy, Late 4th - Early 3rd Century B.C.

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These small cast bronze scallop shells were used as money in central Italy.
RR77298. Cast bronze Aes Formatum, cf. G. Fallai, IAPN 8, pl. 6, 2-2e; Alvarez-Burgos P28; Thurlow-Vecchi -; molded from bipod shell, VF, weight 9.782 g, maximum diameter 29.9 mm, $150.00 (€133.50)
 


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, $135.00 (€120.15)
 


Osco-Latin, Central Italy, Late 4th - Early 3rd Century B.C.

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GA77416. Cast bronze Aes Formatum, cf. G. Fallai, IAPN 8, pl. 6, 2-2e; Alvarez-Burgos P28; Thurlow-Vecchi -; molded from bipod shell, weight 16.710 g, maximum diameter 27.4 mm, uncertain Osco-Latin mint, late 4th - early 3rd century B.C.; $135.00 (€120.15)
 


Kalchedon, Bithynia, c. 340 - 320 B.C.

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The position of Chalcedon, on the eastern shore of the Bosporus, was not as favorable as that of Byzantion on the opposite side. The Persian Megabazus (Herod. iv. 144) said the founders of Chalcedon must have been blind, for Chalcedon was settled seventeen years before Byzantium; and the settlers, we must suppose, had the choice of the two places.
GS75218. Silver half siglos, SNG BM Black Sea 118; SNGvA 484; SNG Stancomb 14; BMC Pontus p. 124, 8; HGC 7 518, gVF, off center, light marks, tiny edge split, weight 2.430 g, maximum diameter 13.5 mm, Kalchedon mint, c. 340 - 320 B.C.; obverse KAΛX, bull standing left on ear of grain; reverse quadripartite incuse square of mill-sail pattern, stippled texture within incuse areas; $130.00 (€115.70)
 


Methymna, Lesbos, c. 450 - 379 B.C.

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Methymna, the prosperous second city of Lesbos, was, According to myth, named after a daughter of Lesbos, the patron god of the island, and Macar, the island's first king. Methymna had a long-standing rivalry with Mytilene and sided with Athens during the Mytilenaean revolt in 428 B.C. All the other cities of Lesbos sided with Mytilene. After Athenians put down the revolt, only Methymna was spared from being made a cleruchy. After 427, Methymna and Chios were the only members of the Delian League to remain self-governing and exempt from tribute, indicating a privileged position within the Athenian Empire. Methymna was briefly captured by the Spartans in summer 412, but quickly retaken by the Athenians. When the Spartan Kallikratidas besieged Methymna in 406, the city stayed loyal to its Athenian garrison and held out until it was betrayed by several traitors.
GS76285. Silver obol, SNG Cop 351, Klein 351, HGC 6 904 (R2), SNGvA -, VF, centered, uneven toning, die wear and cracks, tiny flan cracks, light corrosion, weight 0.520 g, maximum diameter 8.1 mm, die axis 270o, Methymna mint, c. 450/40 - 406/379 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, wearing crested Attic helmet with spiral floral ornament; reverse kantharos, MAΘ around, linear circle border, all within a round incuse; $130.00 (€115.70)
 


Caria, Uncertain City (probably Mylasa), c. 420 - 390 B.C.

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Among the smallest coins ever minted.
GA76794. Silver tetartemorion, SNG Kayhan 940 - 943, SNG Keckman I 926, VF, weight 0.150 g, maximum diameter 5.7 mm, die axis 165o, Carian mint, c. 420 - 390 B.C.; obverse forepart of lion right, head turned back left; reverse bird standing left within incuse square; $130.00 (€115.70)
 


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; $125.00 (€111.25)
 


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; $125.00 (€111.25)
 


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 (€111.25)
 




  



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Archaic Origins