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Home>Catalog>CollectingThemes>Numismatics>ArchaicOrigins PAGE 1/4123»»»

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 . . .


Persian Empire, Satrapy of Lydia (Uncertain City in Caria), c. 515 - 475 B.C.
Click for a larger photo A lion head or forepart was a popular type, and most popular in Caria, but none of the published examples are similar enough to indicate a close relationship to this coin or provide a clue to its origin more specific than Caria, c. early 5th century. There is significant wear on the dies, so apparently many examples of this type were struck, but this is the only example we know to exist today.
GS71615. Silver stater, Unpublished; SNG Kayhan -, cf. 930 ('Mylasa?' probably unrelated); SNGvA -; SNG Cop -; SNG Keckman -; SNG München -; Rosen -; Dewing -; Asyut -, VF, weight 10.848 g, maximum diameter 22.9 mm, Carian mint, c. 515 - 475 B.C.; obverse lion's head right with gaping jaws, protruding tongue, foreleg below; reverse quadripartite incuse square, divided diagonally by one thick and one thin band; ex Numismatik Lanz München, auction 144 (24 Nov 2008), lot 255; unique?; $1500.00 SALE PRICE $1350.00

Lyttus, Crete, c. 450 - 320 B.C.
Click for a larger photo References do not describe the obverse legend, but it is also present on the Svoronos plate.
SH65976. Silver drachm, Svoronos Crete p. 231, 19 and pl.XXI, 13; BMC Crete p. 55, 7; SNG Cop 494, aVF, slightly grainy, well centered, weight 5.352 g, maximum diameter 19.9 mm, die axis 0o, Lyttus mint, c. 380 - 320 B.C.; obverse ΛY−TΣ (clockwise starting above, ΛY ligate), eagle flying left; reverse ΛYTTION, boar’s head right in beaded square border, all within incuse square; rare; $760.00 SALE PRICE $684.00

Himera, Sicily, 430 - 420 B.C.
Click for a larger photo The style of the early coinage of Himera varied greatly. This coin has the most cartoon-like style. Calciati describes the beveled flan as a "truncated cone."
SH68313. Bronze tetras, Calciati I p. 32, 18; SNG Cop 315; SNG ANS 181; SNG Morcom 596; HGC 2 467 (R1), VF, smoothing, weight 11.965 g, maximum diameter 22.1 mm, die axis 135o, Himera mint, 430 - 420 B.C.; obverse facing gorgoneion with cartoon-like style, protruding tongue, curly hair with no part, almond eyes, and pellet nostrils; reverse three pellets, within round incuse; rare; $650.00 SALE PRICE $585.00

Roman Republic, Cast Coinage, c. 280 - 265 B.C.
Click for a larger photo
RR65391. Aes grave (cast) semuncia, Sydenham 14, Thurlow-Vecchi 7, Crawford 14/7, Historia Numorum Italy 274, F, weight 14.86 g, maximum diameter 25.2 mm, die axis 90o, Italian mint, c. 280 - 265 B.C.; obverse acorn; reverse large Σ (mark of value); $330.00 SALE PRICE $297.00

Iberian Celts, Hacksilver, c. 300 - 150 B.C.
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SH73371. Silver hacksilver fragment, perhaps from a disk ingot; cf. Kim and Kroll 59; Van Alfen Hacksilber 53 ff., 26.019g, 23.9mm long, VF, $300.00 SALE PRICE $270.00

Lesbos, 550 - 480 B.C.
Click for a larger photo Apotropaic magic is a ritual observance that is intended to turn away evil. Curiously, eyes were often used to ward off the "evil eye."
GA71017. Billon 1/36th stater, SNG München 650; SNGvA 7716; SNG Cop 292; HGC 6 1074 (R1); BMC Troas, p. 152, 27; Traité 2/1; Rosen 548, gVF, weight 0.326 g, maximum diameter 5.9 mm, uncertain Koinon of Lesbos mint, 550 - 480 B.C.; obverse two apotropaic eyes; reverse incuse square; rare; $290.00 SALE PRICE $261.00

Celt-Iberian, Billon Ring Money, c. 2nd Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo Rings of the type have been found in Central Europe, France, Britain, and Spain. In Spain they are often found alongside silver bar and disk ingots, and 2nd Century B.C. denarii of the Roman Republic. This example is double the size and weight of more common examples.
CE72233. Silver Ring Money, large ring, debased silver, narrowing to split, cf. Alvarez-Burgos P5 (5.0 - 6.6g, no narrowing), VF, weight 13.139 g, maximum diameter 32.4 mm, c. 2nd Century B.C.; $270.00 SALE PRICE $243.00

Lesbos, 500 - 440 B.C.
Click for a larger photo Apotropaic magic is a ritual observance that is intended to turn away evil. Curiously, eyes were often used to ward off the "evil eye".
GA71546. Billon 1/48th stater, BMC Troas, p. 152, 28; SNG Cop 292; SNGvA 7716; SNG München 650; Rosen 548; HGC 6 1074 (1/36th stater, R1), VF, weight 0.207 g, maximum diameter 5.8 mm, Lesbos mint, 500 - 440 B.C.; obverse two apotropaic eyes (or two barley kernels); reverse incuse square; rare; $250.00 SALE PRICE $225.00

Iberian Celts, Hacksilver, c. 300 - 150 B.C.
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CE71877. Silver hacksilver fragment, perhaps from a disk ingot; cf. Kim and Kroll 59; Van Alfen Hacksilber 53 ff., 15.451g, 21.6mm, $250.00 SALE PRICE $225.00

Assos, Troas, c. 480 - 450 B.C.
Click for a larger photo Assos was a harbor city on the Gulf of Adramytteion, just north of the island of Lesbos. Hermias, a student of Plato, ruled Assos for a time during the 4th century B.C. He invited Plato's most famous student, Aristotle, who lived and taught in Assos for more than three years. When the Persians took the city, they executed Hermias and Aristotle fled to Lesbos. After visiting Alexandria Troas, Paul walked to Assos and visited the Christians there (Acts 20:13).

An astragalos was a gaming piece, made from the knuckle-bone of a sheep or goat, used in antiquity for divination and games in a manner similar to dice.
GA63461. Silver tetartemorion, Klein 475 (Teos), SNG Kayhan -, BMC Ionia -, SNG Cop -, SNGvA -, VF, broad flan, weight 0.203 g, maximum diameter 6.7 mm, Assos mint, 480 - 450 B.C.; obverse griffin leaping right; reverse astragalos within incuse square; extremely rare; $225.00 SALE PRICE $203.00

Italy, c. 5th - 4th Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo Bronze axe heads were used for exchange across Europe even before 1000 B.C. This broken fragment of a bronze axe head dates much later, c. 5 - 4th Century B.C. It was never used to cut wood but was cast to served as currency, and was broken for change.
AR70508. Bronze Aes Formatum, Aes formatum bronze axe head fragment; maximum length 39.8mm, weight 38.814g, $225.00 SALE PRICE $203.00

Italy, c. 5th - 4th Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo Bronze axe heads were used for exchange across Europe even before 1000 B.C. This broken fragment of a bronze axe head dates much later, c. 5 - 4th Century B.C. It was never used to cut wood but was cast to served as currency, and was broken for change.
AR70510. Bronze Aes Formatum, Aes formatum axe head fragment; maximum length 37.0mm, weight 28.261g, $225.00 SALE PRICE $203.00

Persian Empire, Judaea (Yehudah), 375 - 333 B.C.
Click for a larger photo
Minted in Judaea while under Persian control, prior to Alexander the Great's conquest. Click here to see a map of the Persian Empire about 500 B.C.
JD59398. Silver obol, Meshorer TJC 5, Hendin 1051, aF, weight 0.487 g, maximum diameter 8.4 mm, c. 375 - 333 B.C.; obverse oriental style head of Athena; reverse Aramaic inscription: "YHD" (Yehudah), owl standing left, head facing, olive spray right; rare; $200.00 SALE PRICE $180.00

Sinope, Paphlagonia, c. 490 - 425 B.C.
Click for a larger photo Long used as a Hittite port, Sinope was re-founded as a Greek colony by Miletus in the 7th century B.C. Sinope flourished as the Black Sea port of a caravan route that led from the upper Euphrates valley. The city escaped Persian domination until the early 4th century B.C. In 183 B.C. it was captured by Pharnaces I and became the capital of the kingdom of Pontus. Lucullus conquered Sinope for Rome in 70 B.C., and Julius Caesar established a Roman colony there, Colonia Julia Felix, in 47 B.C. It remained with the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantines). It was a part of the Empire of Trebizond from the sacking of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204 until the capture of the city by the Seljuk Turks of Rûm in 1214.
GA70807. Silver drachm, SNG BM 1359, SNG Cop 272, SNG Stancomb 750, aVF, weight 6.069 g, maximum diameter 16.4 mm, die axis 90o, Sinope mint, c. 490 - 425 B.C.; obverse head of sea eagle left, dolphin below; reverse quadripartite incuse square with two opposing quarters filled, the others stippled and with pellet in inner corner; ex Harlan J. Berk, buy-or-bid sale, July 2010 ; $200.00 SALE PRICE $180.00

Acorn Pendant Weight, Central Italy, c. 350 - 250 B.C.
Click for a larger photo These acorn pendants, and very similar scallop shell pendants, were probably used as weights. They may also have been worn as jewelry, and undoubtedly they were traded, like all small bronze objects, as proto-currency.
AS90927. Small acorn pendant weight, loop broken; length 32.5 mm; weight 23.412 g, $200.00 SALE PRICE $180.00

Lampsakos, Mysia, c. 500 - 450 B.C.
Click for a larger photo Lampsakos was founded by Greek colonists from Phocaea in the 6th century BC. Soon afterward it became a main competitor of Miletus, controlling the trade roots in the Dardanelles. During the 6th and 5th centuries B.C., Lampsacus was successively dominated by Lydia, Persia, Athens, and Sparta; Artaxerxes I assigned it to Themistocles with the expectation that the city supply the Persian king with its famous wine. When Lampsacus joined the Delian League after the battle of Mycale in 479 B.C., it paid a tribute of twelve talents, a testimony to its wealth.
GA71812. Silver trihemiobol or diobol, Baldwin Lampsakos Group A1 (unlisted denomination), AMNG III 14, SNG BnF 1126, SNG Ashmolean 653, SNGvA 7390, SNG Cop 184, Rosen 524, SGCV II 3879, VF, porous, weight 1.132 g, maximum diameter 10.5 mm, die axis 225o, Lampsakos (Lapseki, Turkey) mint, c. 500 - 450 B.C.; obverse janiform female heads, each wearing stephanos, with central earring; reverse head of Athena left, wearing Corinthian helmet, within incuse square; $200.00 SALE PRICE $180.00 ON RESERVE

Persian Empire, Lydia, Darius I, Sep 522 - Oct 486 B.C.
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Darius I the Great ruled the Persian Empire at its peak. He is mentioned in the Biblical books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Haggai, and Zechariah. He continued to allow the Jewish people to return to Israel and provided money for the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem, which was completed in his sixth year. Darius invaded Greece to subjugate it and to punish Athens and Eretria for aiding the Ionian Revolt. He subjugated Thrace and forced Macedon to become a client kingdom, but his campaign ended at Marathon, where he was famously defeated by a smaller Greek army.Greco-Persian Wars
GA73153. Silver 1/6 siglos, Carradice type II; Winzer 1.8, this denomination is otherwise unpublished in refs; cf. Klein 756 (1/4 siglos); SNG Kayhan 1027 (1/3 siglos), F, rough, weight 0.764 g, maximum diameter 8.4 mm, Lydia, Sardis mint, c. 510 - 486 B.C.; obverse kneeling-running figure of the Great King right, drawing bow, bearded, crowned, quiver at shoulder; reverse rectangular incuse; extremely rare; $200.00 SALE PRICE $180.00

Therma, Macedonia, 510 - 480 B.C.
Click for a larger photo Around 315 B.C., King Cassander of Macedonia, founded Thessalonica on or near the site of the ancient town of Therma.
SH63538. Silver tetrobol, cf. AMNG III p. 117, 30; Rosen 115, SNG Cop 343, SNG ANS -, VF, weight 2.400 g, maximum diameter 12.8 mm, die axis 225o, Macedonia, Thermai mint, 510 - 480 B.C.; obverse Pegasos forepart right, with curved wing; reverse irregular incuse punch; ex Münhandlung ATHENA GmbH (Munich); rare; $180.00 SALE PRICE $162.00

Phokaia, Ionia, Late 6th Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo Phokaia was the most northerly of the Ionian communities in Anatolia and was the mother city of many colonies in the western Mediterranean area, including Massalia (modern Marseille, France). This type (with approximately the same weight) is identified in references variously as a diobol, a trihemiobol, a hemihekte, or a 1/12 stater.
GA71828. Silver hemihekte, Klein 452 (diobol); Rosen 596 - 597 (trihemiobol); SNG Kayhan 522 (hemihekta); SNGvA 1813, VF, etched surfaces, weight 1.352 g, maximum diameter 9.2 mm, Phokaia (Foca, Turkey) mint, late 6th century B.C.; obverse head of nymph left, wearing sakkos and earring; reverse irregular quadripartite incuse square; $175.00 SALE PRICE $158.00

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, $175.00 SALE PRICE $158.00

Salamis, Cyprus, Evagoras I, 411 - 374 B.C.
Click for a larger photo Evagoras claimed descent from Teucer, the son of Telamon and half-brother of Ajax. His family had long ruled Salamis. During his childhood Phoenicians took Salamis and he was exiled to Cilicia. He returned secretly in 410 with 50 followers and retook his throne. Expecting an eventual Persian attack, he cultivated the friendship of the Athenians. For a time, he also maintained friendly relations with Persia and secured the aid of Artaxerxes II for Athens against Sparta. He took part in the battle of Cnidus of 394 B.C. which he provided most of the resources for and in which the Spartan fleet was defeated thanks to his efforts, and for this service his statue was placed by the Athenians side by side with that of Conon in the Ceramicus. Relations with Persia deteriorated and from 391 they were at war. Aided by the Athens and Egypt, Evagoras extended his rule over the greater part of Cyprus, crossed over to Asia Minor, took several cities in Phoenicia (including Tyre), and persuaded the Cilicians to revolt. Under the peace of Antalcidas in 387, Athens abandoned him and recognized Persian lordship over Cyprus. The Persian generals Tiribazus and Orontes at invaded Cyprus in 385 B.C. Evagoras managed to cut off Persian resupplies and the starving troops rebelled. The war then turned in the Persian favor when Evagoras' fleet was destroyed at the Battle of Citium, and he was compelled to flee to Salamis. Here, although closely blockaded, Evagoras managed to hold his ground, and took advantage of a quarrel between the two Persian generals to conclude peace in 376. Evagoras was allowed to remain nominally king of Salamis, but in reality a vassal of Persia, to which he was to pay a yearly tribute. The chronology of the last part of his reign is uncertain. In 374 he was assassinated by a eunuch from motives of private revenge. He was succeeded by his son, Nicocles.
GS68007. Silver 1/12 siglos, Bank of Cyprus 9; BMC Cyprus p. 55, 44; cf. SNG Cop 42 (0.80, obol); Tziambazis 119 (0.27g, 1/48 siglos), VF, weight 0.355 g, maximum diameter 9.2 mm, die axis 0o, Salamis mint, 411 - 374 B.C.; obverse young male head right, curly short hair, dot circle border; reverse smooth blank (as struck); rare; $160.00 SALE PRICE $144.00

Dikaia, Macedonia, 5th Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo Apparently unpublished in major references. The referenced Pecunem Gitbud & Naumann coin is very similar, but from different dies. The referenced VAuctions coin, presumably a later issue, is also very similar but with ∆IKAI and a dotted square border around the grapes within a shallower square incuse. Dikaia was located between the rivers Nestos and Hebros.
GA69941. Silver hemiobol, cf. Pecunem Gitbud & Naumann auction 11, lot 89; VAuctions 270, lot 112; Schönert-Geiss -; SNG Cop -; SNG ANS -; BMC Macedonia -; Klein -; Rosen -, VF, weight 0.451 g, maximum diameter 7.3 mm, die axis 180o, Dikaia mint, 5th century B.C.; obverse head of bull right; reverse bunch of grapes on stem within incuse square; extremely rare; $160.00 SALE PRICE $144.00

Phokaia, Ionia, Late 6th Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo Phokaia was the most northerly of the Ionian communities in Anatolia and was the mother city of many colonies in the western Mediterranean area, including Massalia (modern Marseille, France). This type (with approximately the same weight) is identified in references variously as a diobol, a trihemiobol, a hemihekte, or a 1/12 stater.
GA71825. Silver hemihekte, Klein 452 (diobol); Rosen 596 - 597 (trihemiobol); SNG Kayhan 522 (hemihekta); SNGvA 1813, VF, weight 1.276 g, maximum diameter 10.2 mm, Phokaia (Foca, Turkey) mint, late 6th century B.C.; obverse head of nymph left, wearing sakkos and earring; reverse irregular quadripartite incuse square; $160.00 SALE PRICE $144.00

Roman Republic, c. 5th - 4th Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo Aes Rude is the earliest type of money used by the population of central Italy. They are actually irregular pieces of bronze with no marks or designs. More advanced types of currency were used later: Aes Signatum and Aes Grave, and in the end, normal struck coins.
AR70827. Bronze Aes Rude, SRCV I 505; Thurlow-Vecchi pl. 2, maximum length 72.9 mm, 218.3 g, $155.00 SALE PRICE $140.00

Roman Republic, c. 5th - 4th Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo Aes Rude is the earliest type of money used by the population of central Italy. They are actually irregular pieces of bronze with no marks or designs. More advanced types of currency were used later: Aes Signatum and Aes Grave, and in the end, normal struck coins.
AR70828. Bronze Aes Rude, SRCV I 505; Thurlow-Vecchi pl. 2, maximum length 64 mm, 238.2 g, $155.00 SALE PRICE $140.00

Osco-Latin, Central Italy, Late 4th - Early 3rd Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo These small cast bronze scallop shells were used as money in central Italy.
RR90918. Cast bronze Aes Formatum, cf. G. Fallai, IAPN 8, plate 6, 2-2e; Alvarez-Burgos P28; Thurlow-Vecchi -; molded from bipod shell, weight 22.675 g, maximum diameter 28.4 mm, $155.00 SALE PRICE $140.00

Leontini, Sicily, c. 476 - 455 B.C.
Click for a larger photo Leontini was founded by colonists from Naxos in 729 B.C. Six miles inland, it is the only Greek settlement in Sicily not located on the coast, Originally held by the Sicels, the site was seized by the Greeks to gain control of the fertile plain to the north.
GS65784. Silver hemilitra, SNG München 548; Boehringer Leontini B; cf. HGC 2 688 (R2, obol); SNG ANS 216 (obol, finer style); BMC Sicily p. 88, 22 (same); SNG Cop 342 (same), aVF, toned, crude style (perhaps a barbaric imitative), weight 0.280 g, maximum diameter 9.5 mm, die axis 0o, Leontini (or unofficial?) mint, c. 476 - 466 B.C.; obverse crude facing lion scalp, dot border; reverse LE/ON (retrograde), barley grain, within shallow round incuse; from the old stock of a retiring Ohio dealer acquired by Forum in 2012; very rare; $150.00 SALE PRICE $135.00

Kebren, Troas, 5th Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo 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.
GA72171. Silver obol, cf. SNG Ashmolean 1086 (diobol); SNGvA 1546 (same), Rosen 534 (same), SNG Cop -, SNG München -, BMC Troas -, F, weight 0.673 g, maximum diameter 7.8 mm, die axis 270o, Kebren mint, 5th century B.C.; obverse head of Apollo left; reverse ram's head left within square incuse; very rare; $150.00 SALE PRICE $135.00

Mende, Chalcidice, Macedon, c. 510 - 480 B.C.
Click for a larger photo 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; $150.00 SALE PRICE $135.00

Phokaia, Ionia, Late 6th Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo Phokaia was the most northerly of the Ionian communities in Anatolia and was the mother city of many colonies in the western Mediterranean area, including Massalia (modern Marseille, France). This type (with approximately the same weight) is identified in references variously as a diobol, a trihemiobol, a hemihekte, or a 1/12 stater.
GA71830. Silver hemihekte, Klein 452 (diobol); Rosen 596 - 597 (trihemiobol); SNG Kayhan 522 (hemihekta); SNGvA 1813, gVF, toned, obverse slightly off center, weight 1.226 g, maximum diameter 9.9 mm, Phokaia (Foca, Turkey) mint, late 6th century B.C.; obverse head of nymph left, wearing sakkos and earring; reverse irregular quadripartite incuse square; $150.00 SALE PRICE $135.00



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Catalog current as of Friday, March 27, 2015.
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Archaic Origins