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 . . .
Athens, Greece, Old StyleDrachm, 449 - 413 B.C.
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. Drachms were struck only in relatively small quantities.
SH71029. Silver drachm, SNG Cop 41, Kroll 10, Dewing 1601, VF, weight 4.266 g, maximum diameter 14.5 mm, die axis 270o, Athens mint, c. 449 - 413 B.C.; obverse head of Athena r., almond shaped eye, crested helmet with olive leaves & floral scroll, wire necklace, round earring, hair across forehead in parallel curves; reverse AΘE right, owl standing right, head facing, erect in posture, to left olive sprig and crescent, all within incuse square; scarcer denomination; $900.00 (€675.00)
Lyttus, Crete, c. 450 - 320 B.C.
References do not describe the obverselegend, 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 (€570.00)
Himera, Sicily, 430 - 420 B.C.
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 (€487.50)
Phokaia, Ionia, c. 387 - 326 B.C.
Omphale, queen of Lydia, bought Herakles as a slave after the Delphic Oracle Xenoclea said he must be sold into slavery to purify himself after murdering Iphitus and stealing the Delphic tripod. Omphale forced Herakles to do women's work and wear women's clothing. Meanwhile, as shown on this coin, Omphale wore the Nemean Lion skin and carried his club. After Omphale freed Herakles, she took him as her husband.
SH90670. Electrum hekte, Bodenstedt 107; SNG Cop 1029; SNGvA 2133; SNG Fitzwilliam 4565; Boston MFA 1917; BMC Ionia, p. 211, 55, VF, weight 2.477 g, maximum diameter 10.8 mm, die axis 0o, Phokaia (Foca, Turkey) mint, c. 330 B.C.; obverse head of Omphale left, wearing earring and Herakles' lion skin, his club at shoulder, seal below; reverse quadripartite mill-sail incuse square; $600.00 (€450.00)
Roman Republic, Cast Coinage, c. 280 - 265 B.C.
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); $360.00 (€270.00)
Iberian Celts, Hacksilver, c. 300 - 150 B.C.
CE70515. Silver hacksilver fragment, cut, perhaps from a disk ingot; cf. Kim and Kroll 59; Van Alfen Hacksilber 53 ff., 26.964g, 32.7mm, $360.00 (€270.00)
Akragas (Agrigentum), Sicily, c. 450 B.C.
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.
SH65985. Cast bronze hexas, Calciati I p. 146, 7; BMC Sicily p. 24, 5; SNG Cop 63; SNG ANS -; conical tooth-like shape with round base, VF, weight 7.156 g, maximum diameter 15.9 mm, die axis 0o, Akragas mint, c. 450 B.C.; obverse AK, eagle standing left; reverse crab; two pellets on base; rare; $320.00 (€240.00)
Lesbos, 550 - 480 B.C.
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; reverseincuse square; rare; $290.00 (€217.50)
Assos, Troas, c. 480 - 450 B.C.
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.
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, ColoniaJulia 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 ; $250.00 (€187.50)