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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Greek Coins| ▸ |Greek Countermarked||View Options:  |  |  | 

Countermarked Ancient Greek Coins

A countermark is a stamped or punched impression adding elements of design to a coin after it was originally struck. The practice of countermarking coins was widespread throughout antiquity. It was particularly common in the provinces of the Roman Empire. Countermarks were applied to coins for many reasons, including revalidation, revaluation, devaluation, and propaganda. Exactly when and why any individual countermark was applied is often uncertain.


Kings of Galatia, Deiotaros, Tetrarch 63 - 59 B.C., King 59 - 40 B.C.

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Deiotarus was chief of the Celtic Tolistobogii tribe in western Galatia and became King of Galatia. He was a faithful ally of Rome against Mithridates VI of Pontus, for which he was rewarded by Pompey. Caesar pardoned him for siding with Pompey in the civil war but he was deprived of some of his dominions. After Caesar's death, Mark Antony, for a large payment, publicly announced that, in accordance with instructions left by Caesar, Deiotarus was to resume possession of all the territory of which he had been deprived. When civil war broke out again, Deiotarus supported the anti-Caesarian party of Brutus and Cassius, but after the Battle of Philippi in 42 B.C., he went over to the triumvirs. He retained his kingdom until his death at a very advanced age.
GB88403. Bronze AE 27, SNGvA 6103 (same countermark); Arslan K4; SNG BnF 2333; BMC Galatia p. 1, 1; HGC 7 774 (R2); see RPC I p. 536, aVF, countermark VF, dark brown and green patina, off center, reverse flattened opposite countermark, weight 12.715 g, maximum diameter 26.6 mm, die axis 0o, uncertain Phrygian mint, 59 - 40 B.C.; obverse bust of winged Nike right, hair in a bunch behind; countermark: turreted head of Tyche in round punch; reverse eagle standing right on a sheathed sword, wings open, head turned back left, flanked by pilei of the Dioscuri each with a star above, BAΣIΛEΩΣ above, ∆HIOTAPOV below; very rare; $310.00 (€272.80)
 


Kings of Bosporos, Polemo I, c. 14 - 9 B.C.

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The Bosporan Kingdom (or Kingdom of the Cimmerian Bosporus) was in eastern Crimea and the Taman Peninsula on the shores of the Cimmerian Bosporus, the present-day Strait of Kerch (it was not named after the Bosphorus beside Istanbul). The mixed population adopted Greek language and civilization. The prosperity of the kingdom was based on the export of wheat, fish and slaves. The kingdom's golden age was 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. At the end of the 2nd century A.D., King Sauromates II inflicted a critical defeat on the Scythians and expanded his state to include the entire Crimea. It was the longest surviving Roman client kingdom, lasting until it was overrun by the Huns c. 375 A.D.
GB85937. Bronze tetrachalkon, Frolova-Ireland p. 52, pl. 33/1, pl. 34/1-5, MacDonald Bosporus 229, SNG Stancomb 961, Anokhin 256, HGC 7 347 (R2), RPC I -, SNG BM -, SNG Pushkin -, nice VF, bold strike, slightly off center, attractive near black patina with buff earthen highlighting, scratches, edge cracks, countermark, weight 9.295 g, maximum diameter 24.0 mm, die axis 0o, Pantikapaion (Kerch, Crimea) mint, c. 14 - 9 B.C.; obverse head of gorgon Medusa (or Perseus? - most references say a gorgon) right, winged, snakes (or drapery) around neck, obscure round countermark before; reverse monogram of Polemo I; very rare; $160.00 (€140.80)
 


Seleukid Kingdom, Achaios, Usurper in Anatolia, 220 - 214 B.C.

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Achaios (Achaeus) was an uncle of Antiochos III. In 223 B.C., Antiochus III appointed Achaeus to the command of Anatolia on the western side of Mount Taurus. Achaeus recovered all the districts which had been lost; but was falsely accused by Hermeias, the minister to Antiochus, of intending to revolt. In self-defense he assumed the title of king. Antiochus marched against Achaeus after he concluded the war with Ptolemy. After a two-year siege of his capital of Sardes, Lydia, Achaios was captured and beheaded.
GY89995. Bronze AE 18, Houghton-Lorber I 955(1)c, SNG Spaer 836, HGC 9 435 (R2), cf. Newell WSM 1441ε (same countermark, no control), F, dark patina, scratches, a little rough, light earthen deposits, weight 5.599 g, maximum diameter 18.0 mm, Lydia, Sardes (Sart, Turkey) mint, c. 220 - autumn/winter 214 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right, hair in formal (corkscrew) curls; reverse eagle standing right, head right, wings closed, transverse palm frond on far side, BAΣIΛEΩΣ (king) downward on right, AXAIOY downward on left, X (control) outer right, countermark: horse head right in a 6.5mm round punch; scarce; $160.00 (€140.80)
 


Roman Republic, Anonymous, 211 - 206 B.C.

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Janus (or Ianus) was the god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings and endings. He is most often depicted as having two faces or heads, facing in opposite directions. Janus is believed to be one of the few major deities in Roman mythology that does not have a Greek origin or counterpart.
RR88221. Bronze as, Crawford 56/2, Sydenham 143, BMCRR Rome 373 ff., SRCV I 627, F, green patina, crack, porous, weight 29.386 g, maximum diameter 33.3 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 211 - 206 B.C.; obverse laureate head of bearded Janus, I (mark of value) above, countermark: head right in round punch; reverse war galley prow right, I (mark of value) above, ROMA in exergue; ex Moneta Numismatic Services; $145.00 (€127.60)
 


Valerian I, October 253 - c. June 260 A.D., Hierapolis, Phrygia in Homonoia with Sardis

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This coin commemorates the homonoia (alliance) between Phrygia and Sardis. Cities in Thrace and Asia minor sometimes formed alliances with other cities. The competition for prestige and rivalry between cities in the East was intense. Alliances could enhance a city’s status by aligning either with many cities or with particularly important ones. Homonoia was part of civic "foreign policy" and might have involved the exchange of delegates and joint celebrations and sacrifices. At least 87 cities issued homonoia coins celebrating their alliances.
RP77248. Bronze AE 28, Franke-Nolle, type VI, 857 (Vs.C/Rs.18); cf. SNGvA 3668; SNG Tübingen 4054; Lindgren III 596, VF, tight flan, obscure countermark on obverse, weight 9.924 g, maximum diameter 28.1 mm, die axis 180o, Phrygia, Hierapolis (near Pamukkale, Turkey) mint, Oct 253 - c. Jun 260 A.D.; obverse AY• K• - ΠOY• ΛIK• OYAΛEPAN/OC, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, from the front, round countermark on face; reverse IEPAΠOΛE/ITΩN - KE - CAP∆IANΩN, Apollo on left, standing right, plectrum in right hand, kithara in left hand; cult statue of Kore facing, wearing kalathos and veil, NEOKOPΩN downward in right field, OMONOYA in exergue; very rare; $130.00 (€114.40)
 


Gallienus, August 253 - September 268 A.D., Side, Pamphylia

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The great ruins of Side are among the most notable in Asia Minor. The well-preserved city walls provide an entrance to the site through the Hellenistic main gate. Next comes the colonnaded street, all that remains of the marble columns are a few broken stubs near the old Roman baths. The street leads to the public bath, restored as a museum displaying statues and sarcophagi from the Roman period. Next is the square agora with the remains of a round Temple of Tyche in the middle. The agora was a trading center where pirates sold slaves. The remains of the theater, which was used for gladiator fights and later as a church, and the monumental gate date back to the 2nd century. The early Roman Temple of Dionysus is near the theater. The fountain gracing the entrance is restored. At the left side are the remains of a Byzantine Basilica. A public bath has also been restored. The remaining ruins of Side include three temples, an aqueduct, and a nymphaeum. The photograph right is of ruins of the temple of Apollo.Temple of Apollo
RP88913. Bronze 5 assaria, SNG Cop 4844 (same obv. die), SNG BnF 924, BMC Lycia p. 160, 110, SNG Pfalz -, SNG Cop -, SNG Righetti -, Lindgren -; c/m: Howgego 805 (169 pcs), VF, well centered on a broad flan, porous, weight 17.834 g, maximum diameter 30.5 mm, die axis 30o, Side (near Selimiye, Antalya Province, Turkey) mint, joint reign, Aug 253 - 260 A.D.; obverse AYT KAI ΠOY ΛI ΓAΛΛIHNOC CE, laureate bust right, wearing paludamentum and cuirass, eagle right with wings open below; countermark on right: E (5 assaria) in 7.5mm round punch obliterating IA (prior mark of value); reverse CI∆HTΩN NEΩKOPΩN, Apollo standing front, head left, wearing short chiton, chlamys and boots, patera in right hand, left hand rests on laurel tipped staff, pomegranate on branch right; scarce; $130.00 (€114.40)
 


Antoninus Pius, August 138 - 7 March 161 A.D., Zeugma, Commagene, Syria

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Zeugma was founded by Seleucus I Nicator who almost certainly named the city Seleucia after himself. In 64 B.C. the city was conquered by Rome and renamed Zeugma, meaning "bridge of boats." On the Silk Road connecting Antioch to China, Zeugma had a pontoon bridge across the Euphrates, which was the long time border with the Persian Empire. The Legio IV Scythica was camped in Zeugma. The legion and the trade station brought great wealth to Zeugma until, in 256, Zeugma was fully destroyed by the Sassanid king, Shapur I. An earthquake then buried the city beneath rubble. The city never regained its earlier prosperity and, after Arab raids in the 5th and 6th centuries, it was abandoned again.
RY86830. Bronze AE 22, RPC Online IV 8532 (52 spec.); SNG Hunterian 2628 (same c/m); BMC Galatia p. 125, 8 (same); SNG Cop 28; countermark: Howgego 453 (32 pcs.), aF, c/m VF, tight flan, earthen deposits, corrosion, edge cracks , weight 10.192 g, maximum diameter 21.5 mm, die axis 0o, Zeugma (Belkis, Turkey) mint, 138 - 161 A.D.; obverse AYTO KAI TIT AIΛ A∆P ANTWNEINOC CEB EY (or similar), laureate head right, countermark: 5-pointed star in same shaped 5 mm punch; reverse ZEYΓMTEWN, tetrastyle temple, a rectangular walled and colonnaded peribolos before the temple containing sacred grove, crescent with horns up above, obscure officina letter upper left; ex Beast Coins; $90.00 (€79.20)
 


Trajan, 25 January 98 - 8 or 9 August 117 A.D., Struck at Rome for use in Syria

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This type is typically attributed to Antioch, but recent metallurgical tests suggest it was struck by the Rome mint for use in Syria.

In 115, Trajan was in Antioch for his war against Parthia, when the city was struck by an earthquake. He was forced to take shelter in the circus for several days. He and his successor restored the city.
RB91688. Orichalcum as, Woytek 937x (4 spec.), McAlee 507, RIC II 648, BMCRE III 1090 var. (bust), SRCV II 3243 var. (same); c/m: Howgego 378 (Antioch), aF, centered, roughly cleaned, partial green patina, brassy high points, scratches, weight 8.318 g, maximum diameter 24.4 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, c. 115 - 116 A.D.; obverse IMP CAES NER TRAIANO OPTIMO AVG GERM, radiate heroic bust right, slight drapery on left shoulder (chest and back); countermark: laurel branch with four leaves in a rectangular punch; reverse DAC PARTHICO P M TR POT XX COS VI P P, large S C in wreath; from the Maxwell Hunt Collection; very rare; $80.00 (€70.40)
 


Seleukid Kingdom, Antiochus II Theos, 261 - 246 B.C.

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Antiochus II Theos was the son of Antiochus I and Princess Stratonice, the daughter of Demetrius Poliorcetes. He inherited a state of war with Egypt and while he was thus occupied, his satraps in Parthia and Bactria declared independence. To make peace with Egypt and to seal the treaty, Antiochus repudiated his wife Laodice I, exiled her to Ephesus, and married Ptolemy II's daughter Berenice. Antiochus later left Berenice and their infant son Antiochus, to live again with Laodice. Laodice poisoned him, had Berenice and her infant son murdered, and proclaimed her son Seleucus II as King.
GY88112. Bronze AE 17, Houghton-Lorber SC 572, SNG Spaer 338 ff., Newell 967 - 968, HGC 9 266, gF, well centered on a tight flan, highlighting desert patina, straight edge, slightly concave reverse, weight 4.379 g, maximum diameter 17.4 mm, die axis 45o, Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) mint, 261 - 246 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right; reverse Apollo seated left on omphalos, examining arrow in right hand, resting left hand on kithara on the ground at his side; EY (primary control) outer left, monogram (secondary control) outer right; countermark: anchor in a round punch; ex Moneta Numismatic Services; $50.00 (€44.00)
 







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REFERENCES|

Baker, R. "The Countermarks Found on Ancient Roman Coins: A Brief Introduction" in SAN XV (1984). pp. 52-58.
Barag, D. "The countermarks of the Legio Decima Fretensis" in Kindler Patterns. (Tel-Aviv, 1967).
Barag, D. & S. Qedar. "A Countermark of the Legio Quinta Scytica from the Jewish War" in INJ 13 (1994).
Bauslaugh, R. "Cistophoric Countermarks and the Monetary System of Eumenes II" in NC 1990.
Calciati, R. Corpus Nummorum Siculorum. The Bronze Coinage. (Milan, 1983 - 1987).
Davesne, A. "Une contremarque au trident sur certaines monnaies de Ptolémée II Philadelphe" in BSFN 42/2 (Feb. 1987), pp. 145-149.
Elayi, J. & A. Lemaire. Graffiti et contremarques ouest-sémitiques sur les monnaies grecques et proche-orientales. Glaux 13. (Milan, 1998).
Howgego, C.J. Greek Imperial Countermarks. RNS, Special Publication No. 17. (London, 1985).
Martini, R. Nomismata 6: The Pangerl Collection Catalog and Commentary on the Countermarked Roman Imperial Coins. (Milan, 2003).
McAlee, R. The Coins of Roman Antioch. (Lancaster, PA, 2007).
Rosenberger, M. The Rosenberger Israel Collection Vol. IV: The Coinage of Eastern Palestine, and legionary countermarks, Bar-Kochba overstruck. (Jerusalem, 1978).
Sear, D. Greek Coins and Their Values, Vol. 1: Europe. (London, 1978).
Sear, D. Greek Coins and Their Values, Vol. 2: Asia and Africa. (London, 1979).
Seyrig, H. "Monnaies contremarquées en Syrie," in Syria 35 (1958), pp. 187-197.
Topalov, S. New Contributions to the Study of the Countermarking of Coins in the Area of the West Pontic Cities, 3rd-1st c. B.C. (Sofia, 2002).
Waggoner, N. "The Propontis Hoard" in NR XII, 1979, pp. 7 - 29, plates I - X.
Werz, U. Gegenstempel auf Reichs - und Provinzialprägungen der römischen Kaiserzeit - Katalog der Sammlung Dr. Konrad Bech, Mainz. (Speyer, 2004).

Catalog current as of Wednesday, August 21, 2019.
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Greek Countermarked