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Home>Catalog>CollectingThemes>Numismatics>ArchaicOrigins PAGE 1/11123»»»

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 Silver stater, Unpublished; SNG Kayhan -, cf. 930 ('Mylasa?'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 (€1305.00)

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

Click for a larger photo 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.
SH73118. Electrum hekte, Bodenstedt Em. 52; HGC 6 978, gVF, obverse slightly off center, weight 2.546 g, maximum diameter 10.8 mm, die axis 0o, Mytilene mint, c. 454 - 427 B.C.; obverse young male head right, hair in band; reverse wreathed male head right, wearing long beard, in incuse square; ex CNG auction 342, lot 272; $900.00 (€783.00)

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; $680.00 (€591.60)

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; $580.00 (€504.60)

Ionia, c. 625 - 600 B.C.

Click for a larger photo Mitchiner notes this type, struck at the Lydian-Milesian weight standard used in southern Ionia, has no particular affinities with the major coin series from Miletos or Ephesos. Two possible mint cities, to which no other coins of the period have been attributed, are Myous and Lebedus.
SH73584. Electrum 1/24th stater, cf. Rosen 292, Mitchiner ATEC167, Elektron I 51, SNG Kayhan -, Weidauer -, VF, struck with worn dies, weight 0.560 g, maximum diameter 6.3 mm, uncertain southern Ionian mint, c. 625 - 600 B.C.; obverse raised irregular square with line and/or pellet decorations and extended corners; reverse incuse irregular square punch with line and/or pellet decorations; very rare; $500.00 (€435.00)

Ionia, c. 650 - 600 B.C.

Click for a larger photo 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 blank electrum pieces were within the famous "Artemision Find" at Ephesus in 1904.
SH73586. Electrum 1/48th stater, SNGvA 7764, Weidauer -, Traité I -, Rosen -, SNG Kayhan -, Mitchiner ATEC -, VF, weight 0.295 g, maximum diameter 4.2 mm, uncertain Ionian mint, c. 650 - 600 B.C.; obverse plain globular surface; reverse incuse irregular square punch; very rare; $500.00 (€435.00)

Ephesos(?), Ionia, c. 575 - 550 B.C.

Click for a larger photo The lion's paw on this coin is of a far more realistic form than most of the lion's paw electrum coins. This extremely rare later variation is not listed in Karwiese, the primary reference for the early coins of Ephesos. It was probably struck for a short time just before Ephesos recognized that they should be using the bee and symbols of Artemis on their coins, not lions or lion parts.
SH73587. Electrum 1/24 stater, Mitchiner ATEC 125, Rosen 285, SNG Kayhan -, Weidauer -, Karwiese -, VF, well centered, encrustations, weight 0.383 g, maximum diameter 6.1 mm, Ephesos(?) mint, c. 575 - 550 B.C.; obverse lion's paw or a realistic form seen from above; reverse incuse square divided by seven spokes radiating from a central pellet; extremely rare; $440.00 (€382.80)

Mylasa(?), Caria, c. 560 - 545 B.C.

Click for a larger photo  
SH73588. Electrum 1/48 stater, Weidauer 168, Rosen 302, Mitchiner ATEC 215 (Ephesus, 560 - 545 B.C.), SNG Kayhan -, VF, weight 0.292 g, maximum diameter 4.9 mm, Mylasa(?) mint, c. 560 - 545 B.C.; obverse lion paw; reverse scorpion within incuse square; very rare; $440.00 (€382.80)

Chios, Islands off Ionia, c. 431 - 412 B.C.

Click for a larger photo Chios, in the Aegean Sea, 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) off the Anatolian coast, is the fifth largest of the Greek islands. At the end of the 7th century B.C., Chios became one of the first cities to strike coins, establishing the sphinx as its symbol. It maintained this tradition for almost 900 years. Based on the huge necropolis at the main city of Chios, by the 5th to 4th centuries B.C., the island had grown to an estimated population of over 120,000 (2 - 3 times the current population). During the Hellenistic period, the Chios became famous for the high quality of its wine and was the largest exporter of Greek wine. Chian amphoras, with a characteristic sphinx emblem and bunches of grape have been found as far away as Gaul, Upper Egypt and Southern Russia. After the Roman conquest Chios became part of the province of Asia. The Empire ceded Chios to the Republic of Genoa in 1261.
GA71652. Silver drachm, SNG Cop 1546, SNGvA 2275, Rosen 607, Baldwin Chios 79, SGCV II 4600, VF, attractive style, well centered on a tight flan, weight 3.558 g, maximum diameter 13.5 mm, Chios mint, c. 431 - 412 B.C.; obverse Sphinx seated left, grapes over amphora before, the whole on a circular raised shield; reverse Incuse square divided into four square compartments by fine cross lines, surface of compartments is roughened by design of the die (not wear); $400.00 (€348.00)

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

Click for a larger photo  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 (€261.00)

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Catalog current as of Tuesday, April 21, 2015.
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Archaic Origins