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

Archaic Origins

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."


Lydian Kingdom, Kroisos, c. 561 - 546 B.C.

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In Greek and Persian cultures the name of Croesus became a synonym for a wealthy man. Croesus' wealth remained proverbial beyond classical antiquity: in English, expressions such as "rich as Croesus" or "richer than Croesus" are used to indicate great wealth to this day. According to Herodotus, Croesus encountered the Greek sage Solon and, secure in his own wealth and happiness, asked Solon who was the happiest man in the world. He was disappointed by Solon's response that three had been happier than Croesus: Tellus, who died fighting for his country, and the brothers Kleobis and Biton who died peacefully in their sleep after their mother prayed for their perfect happiness because they had pulled her to a festival in an oxcart. Solon explained that Croesus cannot be the happiest man because the fickleness of fortune means that the happiness of a man's life cannot be judged until after his death. Sure enough, Croesus' hubristic happiness was reversed by the tragic death of his accidentally-killed son, his wife's suicide at the fall of Sardis, and his defeat at the hands of the Persians.
SH85153. Silver stater, SNG Kayhan 1018; SNG Cop 455; SNGvA 2873; BMC Lydia p. 7, 37; Traité II/1 407, pl. X, 7; Sunrise 10; Rosen 662; SGCV II 3419, aEF, well centered and struck, etched surfaces, weight 10.047 g, maximum diameter 18.5 mm, Sardes (Sart, Turkey) mint, c. 560 - 546 B.C.; obverse on the left, forepart of a roaring lion right, confronting, on the right, the forepart of a bull left, pellet above lion's head; reverse two incuse square punches, of unequal size, side by side; ex Art of Money (Portland, OR); $3000.00 (€2670.00)
 


Kyzikos, Mysia, c. 500 - 450 B.C.

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Cyzicus was one of the great cities of the ancient world. It was said to have been founded by Pelasgians from Thessaly, according to tradition at the coming of the Argonauts; later, allegedly in 756 B.C., it received many colonists from Miletus. Owing to its advantageous position it speedily acquired commercial importance, and the gold staters of Cyzicus were a staple currency in the ancient world till they were superseded by those of Philip of Macedon. The site of Cyzicus, located on the Erdek and Bandirma roads, is protected by Turkey's Ministry of Culture.
SH84459. Electrum hekte, SNG BnF 241; SNGvA 1180; BMC Mysia p. 32, 98; Von Fritze I 102; Rosen 482; de Luynes pl. XCII 2460; SNG Cop -, gVF, well centered and struck on a tight flan, weight 2.628 g, maximum diameter 10.8 mm, Kyzikos (Kapu Dagh, Turkey) mint, c. 500 - 450 B.C.; obverse forepart of a winged deer left, tunny fish diagonal with head down behind; reverse quadripartite incuse square; rare; $2020.00 (€1797.80)
 


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; $1450.00 (€1290.50)
 


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 (€1281.60)
 


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; $1350.00 (€1201.50)
 


Persian Empire, Lydia, Anatolia, Darios I - Xerxes II, c. 485 - 420 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

SH84767. Gold daric, Carradice Type IIIb A/B, SNG Cop 275, SGCV II 4679, F, bumps and marks, die wear, weight 8.295 g, maximum diameter 15.7 mm, c. 485 - 420 B.C.; obverse kneeling-running figure of the Great King right, bearded, wearing crown and kidaris, a quiver at his shoulder, transverse spear downward in right hand, bow in extended left hand; reverse irregular approximately rectangular punch; $1210.00 (€1076.90)
 


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; $970.00 (€863.30)
 


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 (€712.00)
 


Ionia, c. 650 - 600 B.C., Plain Globular Type

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Mankind's first coin type! Rare and important. This is an example of the very earliest form of coinage; a type-less (blank) electrum globule, weighed to a specific standard, with a simple square punch mark on one side (two or three punch marks on larger denominations). Nine similar electrum pieces were within the famous "Artemision Find" at Ephesus in 1904.
SH84751. Electrum 1/24th stater, SNG Kayhan 678, Weidauer -, Rosen -, SNGvA -, SNG Cop -, VF, bumps, marks, and scratches, reverse struck with a damaged punch (one corner broken), weight 1.129 g, maximum diameter 6.9 mm, uncertain Ionian mint, c. 650 - 600 B.C.; obverse plain globular surface; reverse incuse punch: roughly square pyramid with sides striated from wear; rare; $640.00 (€569.60)
 


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 (€560.70)
 


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

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Large and attractive example.
AS85409. Cast bronze Aes Formatum, cf. G. Fallai, IAPN 8, pl. 6, 2-2e; Alvarez-Burgos P28; Thurlow-Vecchi -; molded from bipod shell; 115.566g, 56.5mm, Choice VF, uncertain Osco-Latin mint, late 4th - early 3rd century B.C.; $600.00 (€534.00)
 


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; $500.00 (€445.00)
 


Ionia, 625 - 600 B.C., Swastika Pattern Type

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From among the very earliest coins.
SH84475. Electrum hemihekte, 1/24 stater, SNG Kayhan 702, SNGvA 1778, Rosen 365, Traite I 234, Boston MFA 1782 var. (clockwise swastika), Weidauer -, gVF, weight 0.713 g, maximum diameter 7.0 mm, uncertain Ionian mint, 625 - 600 B.C.; obverse raised counterclockwise swastika or square mill-sail pattern; reverse incuse of the same counterclockwise swastika or square mill-sail pattern; $500.00 (€445.00)
 


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 (€445.00)
 


Ionia, c. 625 - 600 B.C.

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From among the very earliest coins.
SH84752. Electrum hemihekte, Lydo-Milesian standard 1/12 stater, cf. SNG Kayhan 686, Rosen -, Weidauer -, Zhuyuetang -, Boston MFA -, Traité I-, Elektron -, VF, crude, weight 1.154 g, maximum diameter 7.5 mm, uncertain Ionian mint, c. 625 - 600 B.C.; obverse rough geometric (floral?) pattern; reverse roughly square punch with irregular markings within; $450.00 (€400.50)
 


Ionia, c. 600 - 550 B.C.

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From die wear, we know that many of these early electrum types from Ionia were struck in very large quantities. From the rarity of survivors, we know the vast majority of these earliest coins were melted down and recycled into later coins.
SH84466. Electrum 1/24 stater, Weidauer 122 - 123; SNG Kayhan 708 - 710, Mitchiner ATEC 142, Zhuyuetang -, Traité I -, Rosen -, SNGvA -, VF, dies quite worn, edge splits, weight 0.590 g, maximum diameter 7.1 mm, Ionia, uncertain mint, c. 600 - 550 B.C.; obverse head of lion right, linear form; reverse quadripartite incuse square punch, pellet in center; $400.00 (€356.00)
 


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; $360.00 (€320.40)
 


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 (€267.00)
 


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; $280.00 (€249.20)
 


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 (€249.20)
 


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; $270.00 (€240.30)
 


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 (€213.60)
 


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; $230.00 (€204.70)
 


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; $225.00 (€200.25)
 


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.; $225.00 (€200.25)
 


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 (€200.25)
 


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, $200.00 (€178.00)
 


Lesbos, 550 - 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 1/48 stater, BMC Troas, p. 152, 27; SNG Cop 292; SNGvA 7716; SNG Munchen 650; Rosen 548; HGC 6 1074 (R1), VF, weight 0.207 g, maximum diameter 5.8 mm, Lesbos mint, 550 - 440 B.C.; obverse two apotropaic eyes (or two barley kernels); reverse quadripartite incuse square; rare; $180.00 (€160.20)
 


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.; $180.00 (€160.20)
 


Eion, Macedonia, c. 470 - 460 B.C.

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Published examples of this type are about twice the weight of this coin and identified as diobols and trihemiobols. Our coin might be an underweight diobol or trihemiobol, but the weight is closer to an obol.

Eion was only about 3 miles from Amphipolis and after the 5th century was merely a seaport of its large neighbor. The denomination is either 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.
GA79647. Silver obol, cf. SNG ANS 275; McClean 3084; BMC Macedonia p. 75, 21; AMNG III/2, p. 140, 37 (diobols and trihemiobols), VF, etched surfaces, weight 0.664 g, maximum diameter 10.4 mm, Eion mint, c. 470 - 460 B.C.; obverse goose standing right, on decorated base, left leg raised, head turned back, lizard left above, Θ lower left; reverse rough mill sail incuse pattern; $180.00 (€160.20)
 




  



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REFERENCES

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Catalog current as of Tuesday, June 27, 2017.
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Archaic Origins