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

Archaic Origins - The First Coins of Mankind

The coins below are among the first struck by mankind. Coins struck in the later classical and Hellenistic periods, but in archaic or archaized style are also included here. Click here to read "From the Origin of Coins to Croesus."


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.
SL85595. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG Munchen 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, Dewing 1611, SGCV I 2526, NGC MS, strike 5/5, surface 3/5 (4377469-089), well centered, bold strike, some light marks, weight 17.18 g, maximum diameter 24 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; NGC certified (slabbed); ex Heritage Auction 231729, lot 63023; $2350.00 (€1997.50)
 


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.
SH86160. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG Munchen 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, Dewing 1611, SGCV I 2526, gVF, bold strike, toned, traces of find patina, edge cracks, weight 17.133 g, maximum diameter 24.7 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 owl standing right, head facing, erect in posture, olive sprig and crescent left, all within incuse square, AΘE downward on right; ex CNG e-auction 405, lot 132; $1550.00 (€1317.50)
 


Ionia, c. 600 - 550 B.C.

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In Greek mythology, the Sirens were dangerous creatures, who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. In early Greek art, Sirens were represented as birds with large women's heads, bird feathers, and scaly feet. Later, they were represented as female figures with the legs of birds, with or without wings, playing a variety of musical instruments, especially harps. Later Sirens were sometimes depicted as beautiful women, whose bodies, not only their voices, were seductive.
SH84464. Electrum hemihekte, Unpublished in major references; Naville auction VII (1924), Bement Collection, lot 1435; CNG, Triton XI (8 Jan 2008), lot 253, aEF, tight flan, earthen deposits, weight 1.367 g, maximum diameter 8.8 mm, Ionia, uncertain mint, c. 600 - 550 B.C.; obverse siren standing left; reverse incuse square punch; ex Numismatica Ars Classica, auction 92, part 2 (24 May 2016), lot 1476; this type is not published in the major references but many examples are known from auctions; rare; $1440.00 (€1224.00)
 


Ionia, c. 600 - 550 B.C.

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As reported by B.V. Head in Chapter 5 of Excavations at Ephesus: The Archaic Artemisia, a coin of this type was one of five coins found in excavations underneath the foundations of the southern wall of the B cella of the Artemisia at Ephesus. The other four coins were lion head and lion paw types. Head wrote these coins must have been deposited during construction of the First Temple (A). Weidauer 145 is the coin found at the Artemisia (= Head Artemisia 79), now at the Arkeoloji Müzesi, Istanbul. The Weidauer coins appear to be struck with the same obverse die.
SH84450. Electrum 1/24 stater, Milesian standard; Weidauer 145 - 146; Head Artemisia p. 86 and pl. 2, 79; cf. SNGvA 1781 (different style); Rosen 287 (same); SNG Kayhan 717 (same), gVF, centered, edge cracks, some die rust (also found on other examples of this type), weight 0.579 g, maximum diameter 6.2 mm, uncertain Ionian mint, c. 600 - 550 B.C.; obverse bridled head and neck of Pegasos left, with top edge of wing visible; reverse four raised squares in a cross pattern within incuse square punch; very rare; $1300.00 (€1105.00)
 


Ionia, c. 600 - 550 B.C.

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The referenced Triton XIV coin is similar, but from different dies, and the only other coin of this type known to Forum.
SH84465. Electrum 1/24 stater, Unpublished in references; Classical Numismatic Group, Triton XIV (4 Jan 2011), lot 309 ($1800 plus fees), VF, well centered on a tight flan, edge cracks, weight 0.630 g, maximum diameter 7.1 mm, Ionia, uncertain mint, c. 600 - 550 B.C.; obverse cock standing left; reverse quadripartite incuse square punch; extremely rare; $1210.00 (€1028.50)
 


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; $900.00 (€765.00)
 


Roman Republic, Aes Formatum, 4th Century B.C.

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Called aes formatum by Haeberlin, this very rare bronze currency was a precursor to the issues of aes grave but later than aes rude. Presumably, molten bronze-iron alloy was poured into a shallow hole in the dirt. This left a disc-shaped metal mound with a flat reverse. Broken examples are much more common than complete ones like this.
RT11424. Cast bronze Aes Formatum, Haeberlin p. 4, pl. 2.7; 1.196kg, 137mm, Italian mint, 4th century B.C.; obverse convex obverse; reverse flat reverse; the denarius is included in the photograph to indicate the size, it is not included with the aes formatum; very rare; $900.00 (€765.00)
 


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.
SH85448. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG Munchen 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, Dewing 1611, SGCV I 2526, VF, high relief as usual for the type, obverse toned, minor edge split, light bumps and marks, tight flan typical for the type, weight 17.092 g, maximum diameter 23.6 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; $900.00 (€765.00)
 


Roman Republic, Large Domed Ingot, Aes Formatum, 4th Century B.C.

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Called aes formatum by Haeberlin, this very rare bronze currency was a precursor to the issues of aes grave but later than aes rude. Presumably, molten bronze-iron alloy was poured into a shallow hole in the dirt. This left a disc-shaped metal mound with a flat reverse. Broken examples are much more common than complete ones like this.
AR11900. Cast bronze Aes Formatum, Haeberlin p. 4, pl. 2.7; 1.64 kg (3 lbs, 10 oz), maximum diameter 14.6 cm, Italian mint, 4th century B.C.; obverse convex obverse; reverse flat reverse; the denarius is in the photograph to indicate the size, denarius not included; very rare; $800.00 (€680.00)
 


Roman Republic, Aes Formatum, 4th Century B.C.

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Called aes formatum by Haeberlin, this very rare bronze currency was a precursor to the issues of aes grave but later than aes rude. Presumably, molten bronze-iron alloy was poured into a shallow hole in the dirt. This left a disc-shaped metal mound with a flat reverse. Broken examples are much more common than complete ones like this.
RT11873. Cast bronze Aes Formatum, Haeberlin p. 4, pl. 2.7; 1.273kg, 124mm, Italian mint, 4th century B.C.; obverse convex obverse; reverse flat reverse; the denarius is included in the photograph to indicate the size, it is not included with the aes formatum; very rare; $800.00 (€680.00)
 


Ionia, c. 600 - 550 B.C.

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Unpublished in the standard references but known from auction listings, some of which fail to notice the two "eyes."
SH84755. Electrum hemihekte, 1/12 stater Lydo-Milesian standard; cf. CNG auction (9 Mar 2016), lot 156 (same dies); Elektron I 9 corr.; Weidauer -; Traité I -; SNG Kayhan -, aVF, scratches, weight 1.136 g, maximum diameter 7.8 mm, uncertain Ionian mint, c. 600 - 550 B.C.; obverse plain with to pellets side-by-side on the edge (crude scarab beetle?); reverse irregular six-lobed incuse pattern; very rare; $630.00 (€535.50)
 


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

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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.
SH85699. Electrum hekte, Bodenstedt 52; Boston MFA 1700; SNG Cop 325; SNGvA 7731; SNG Fitzwilliam 4344; BMC Troas p. 121, 56 & pl. 32, 25; HGC 6 978 (R1), aVF, weight 2.573 g, maximum diameter 11.3 mm, die axis 0o, Mytilene mint, c. 454 - 427 B.C.; obverse young male head (river god?) right, short hair, wearing taenia; reverse archaizing bearded male head (Dionysos?) right, long pointed beard, within incuse square; $580.00 (€493.00)
 


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

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CE85318. Hacksilver fragment, cut half of a disk ingot; cf. Kim and Kroll 59; Van Alfen Hacksilber 53 ff.; 68.919g, 42.9mm, $500.00 (€425.00)
 


Italy, 3rd Century B.C., Lot of 20 Aes Rude and Aes Grave Fragments

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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.
AA12236. Bronze Lot, Italian mint, 3rd century B.C.; Lot of 20 aes rude and aes grave fragments, weights c. 14g - 65g, no tags or flips, actual fragments in the photograph, as-is, no returns; $500.00 (€425.00)
 


Miletos, Ionia, c. 600 - 550 B.C.

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By the 6th century B.C., Miletus had earned a maritime empire with many colonies, but brushed up against powerful Lydia at home, and the tyrant Polycrates of its neighbor to the west, Samos. When Cyrus of Persia defeated Croesus of Lydia in the middle of the 6th century B.C., Miletus fell under Persian rule.
SH85713. Electrum 1/24th stater, SNG Kayhan 453, SNGvA 1803, Klein 416, Mitchiner ATEC 210, SNG Cop -, Rosen -, Choice VF, attractive well centered lion head, weight 0.586 g, maximum diameter 6.3 mm, die axis 0o, Miletos (near Balat, Turkey) mint, c. 600 - 550 B.C.; obverse facing lion's head, mane radiating around; reverse irregular incuse punch; $350.00 (€297.50)
 


Roman Republic, Fragment of a Large Domed Ingot, Aes Formatum, 4th Century B.C.

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Called aes formatum by Haeberlin, this very rare bronze currency was a precursor to the issues of aes grave but later than aes rude. Presumably, molten bronze-iron alloy was poured into a shallow hole in the dirt. This left a disc-shaped metal mound with a flat reverse. Broken examples like this one are much more common than complete ones.
AR12017. Cast bronze Aes Formatum, Haeberlin p. 4, pl. 2.7, fragment, broken from a large domed ingot, weight 45.4 g, maximum diameter 99.7 mm, Italian mint, 4th century B.C.; obverse convex obverse; reverse flat reverse; very rare; $300.00 (€255.00)
 


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 (Agrigento, Sicily, Italy) 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; $280.00 (€238.00)
 


Italy, Bronze Axe Head, Aes Formatum, c. 5th - 4th Century B.C.

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Bronze axe heads were used for exchange across Europe even before 1000 B.C. This complete bronze axe head dates much later, c. 5 - 4th Century B.C. It was never used to cut wood, but was cast to serve as currency.
AS11911. Bronze Aes Formatum, Aes formatum bronze axe, 160.8g, 8.6cm, rough green patina, $280.00 (€238.00)
 


Italy, 3rd Century B.C., Lot of 8 Aes Rude and Aes Grave Fragments

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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.
AA12228. Bronze Lot, Italian mint, 3rd century B.C.; Lot of 8 aes rude and aes grave fragments, average weight c. 30g, no tags or flips, actual fragments in the photograph, as-is, no returns; $280.00 (€238.00)
 


Selinous, Sicily, c. 450 - 440 B.C.

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Selinous was once one of the most important Greek colonies in Sicily. In 409 B.C., the Carthaginians attacked with a vast army believed to include at least 100,000 men. Selinus, with a population of about 30,000 excluding slaves, was unprepared and an auxiliary force promised by Syracuse, Agrigentum and Gela did not arrive. The Selinuntines defended themselves with courage, and after the walls were breached, continued to fight from house to house. After tens days the city fell. Of the citizens, 16,000 were slain and 5,000 made prisoners, but more than 2,600 escaped to Agrigento.
GI79939. Bronze cast tetras, Calciati I p. 235, 4; SNG Lloyd 1272; HGC 2 1233 (R1); BMC Sicily -; SNG Cop -; SNG ANS -; SNG Munchen -; SNG Morcom -; SNG Tub -, F, green patina, weight 11.019 g, maximum diameter 20.5 mm, die axis 0o, Selinus mint, 450 - 440 B.C.; obverse facing head of Medusa (gorgoneion), anepigraphic; reverse wild celery (selinon) leaf, three pellets (mark of value) around, anepigraphic; rare; $250.00 (€212.50)
 


Aspendos, Pamphylia, c. 490 - 450 B.C.

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Aspendos is about 40 km east of Antalya, Turkey about 16 km inland on the Eurymedon River. In 546 B.C. it fell to Persia. After a Persian defeat in 467, the city joined the Attic-Delos Maritime League. Persia took it again in 411 B.C., Alexander in 333 B.C., and Rome in 190 B.C. Although often subject to powerful empires, the city usually retained substantial autonomy.
GA84056. Silver obol, Rosen 392, SNG BnF -, SNG Cop -, SNGvA -, SNG PfPS -, SNG Kayhan -, BMC Lycia -, Klein -, VF, well centered, etched surfaces, obverse die crack, weight 0.626 g, maximum diameter 8.3 mm, Aspendos mint, c. 490 - 450 B.C.; obverse triskeles right, three pellets, one between each leg, reverse quadripartite incuse; extremely rare; $240.00 (€204.00)
 


Iberia, Hacksilver, Solid Lunate Earring, c. 650 - 150 B.C.

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The lunate earring type, characterized by a solid crescentric body in a tapered bent over hoop, is the most basic and popular form of earring found in Bronze and Iron Age contexts. The earliest know were found at Ur and date to the third millennium B.C. They are very often found in hacksilver hoards, indicating that they were a bullion medium of exchange. The referenced examples and others known to Forum are all from the East and are under 2 grams. This much larger and heavier example was found in Iberia. Perhaps it was produced locally or perhaps it was brought to the region by Phoenician trade.
CE84812. Hacksilver ring, cf. Gitler Hacksilber 24 ff. (Samaria, late 4th c. B.C.); Golani-Sass Fig. 10, 1 - 2 (Tel Miqne-Ekron, Canaan, 7th c. B.C.) , weight 9.468 g, maximum diameter 32.7 mm, solid silver, crescentric body in a tapered bent over hoop; $240.00 (€204.00)
 


Roman Republic, Fragment of a Large Domed Ingot, Aes Formatum, 4th Century B.C.

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Called aes formatum by Haeberlin, this very rare bronze currency was a precursor to the issues of aes grave but later than aes rude. Presumably, molten bronze-iron alloy was poured into a shallow hole in the dirt. This left a disc-shaped metal mound with a flat reverse. Broken examples like this one are much more common than complete ones.
AR11677. Cast bronze Aes Formatum, Haeberlin p. 4, pl. 2.7, 411g, 9.5cm, fragment, broken from a large domed ingot, Italian mint, 4th century B.C.; obverse convex obverse; reverse flat reverse; the denarius is in the photograph to indicate the size, denarius not included; very rare; $240.00 (€204.00)
 


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

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CE84901. Cast bronze Aes Formatum, cf. G. Fallai, IAPN 8, pl. 6, 2-2e; Alvarez-Burgos, VF, weight 40.661 g, maximum diameter 31.5 mm, uncertain Osco-Latin mint, late 4th - early 3rd century B.C.; $225.00 (€191.25)
 


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

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CE84091. Hacksilver fragment, cut, perhaps from a disk ingot; cf. Kim and Kroll 59; Van Alfen Hacksilber 53 ff.; 22.997g, 18.3mm, $207.00 (€175.95) ON RESERVE


Phaselis, Lycia, 500 - 466 B.C.

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Partial brockage obverse. The obverse was re-struck off-center over a brockage of the reverse, leaving two clear impressions.
GA83588. Silver tetrobol, SNGvA 4396, SNG Berry 1200 var. (ΦA above galley, Σ below), SNG Cop -, SNG Fitzwilliam -, VF, toned, tight flan, die wear, die cracks, partial brockage, weight 3.507 g, maximum diameter 15.0 mm, die axis 90o, Phaselis mint, 500 - 440 B.C.; obverse prow of war galley right in the form of a boar's forepart, partial brockage with incuse letters ΦA visible on obverse; reverse stern right, ΦAΣ above, all in incuse square; ex Roma Numismatics, e-sale 21 (31 Oct 2015), 368; $200.00 (€170.00)
 


Thraco-Macedonian Tribes, c. Mid 5th Century B.C.

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Monkeys were kept as pets in antiquity. We know of only two ancient coin types depicting monkeys. One is this very rare type, with the monkey squatting either left or right. The other is an electrum hemihekte from Kyzikos, Mysia with fewer than five known specimens.
CE84168. Silver tetartemorion, Tzamalis 67 var. (monkey left); cf, Svoronos HPM pl. 7, 13 (different reverse, damaged die?), aEF, very tiny coin, obverse a little off center, porous, weight 0.209 g, maximum diameter 6.3 mm, uncertain mint, c. mid 5th century B.C.; obverse monkey squatting right; reverse round shield within incuse square; ex Numismatik Naumann auction 39 (3 Jan 2016), lot 47; very rare; $200.00 (€170.00)
 


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

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CE84537. Cast bronze Aes Formatum, cf. G. Fallai, IAPN 8, pl. 6, 2-2e; Alvarez-Burgos P28; Thurlow-Vecchi -; molded from bipod shell, VF, weight 35.647 g, maximum diameter 29.6 mm, uncertain Osco-Latin mint, late 4th - early 3rd century B.C.; $200.00 (€170.00)
 


Iberia, Hacksilver, Solid Lunate Earring, c. 650 - 150 B.C.

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The lunate earring type, characterized by a solid crescentric body in a tapered bent over hoop, is the most basic and popular form of earring found in Bronze and Iron Age contexts. The earliest know were found at Ur and date to the third millennium B.C. They are very often found in hacksilver hoards, indicating that they were a bullion medium of exchange. The referenced examples and others known to Forum are all from the East and are under 2 grams. This much larger and heavier example was found in Iberia. Perhaps it was produced locally or perhaps it was brought to the region by Phoenician trade.
CE84813. Silver Ring Money, cf. Gitler Hacksilber 24 ff. (Samaria, late 4th c. B.C.); Golani-Sass Fig. 10, 1 - 2 (Tel Miqne-Ekron, Canaan, 7th c. B.C.) , weight 6.575 g, maximum diameter 25.2 mm, solid silver, crescentric body in a tapered bent over hoop; $200.00 (€170.00)
 


Roman Republic, Fragment of a Large Domed Ingot, Aes Formatum, 4th Century B.C.

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Called aes formatum by Haeberlin, this very rare bronze currency was a precursor to the issues of aes grave but later than aes rude. Presumably, molten bronze-iron alloy was poured into a shallow hole in the dirt. This left a disc-shaped metal mound with a flat reverse. Broken examples like this one are much more common than complete ones.
RT11899. Cast bronze Aes Formatum, Haeberlin p. 4, pl. 2.7; 1.230kg, 121mm, fragment, broken from a large domed ingot, Italian mint, 4th century B.C.; obverse convex obverse; reverse flat reverse; very rare; $200.00 (€170.00)
 




  



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Catalog current as of Sunday, October 22, 2017.
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Archaic Origins