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

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 . . .


Athens, Greece, Old Style Tetradrachm, c. 454 - 404 B.C.

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The old-style tetradrachm of Athens is famous for its almond shaped eye, archaic smile and charming owl reverse. Around 480 B.C. a wreath of olive leaves and a decorative scroll were added to Athena's helmet. On the reverse a crescent moon was added.

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.
SH72559. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG Mnchen 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, VF, well centered, high relief, reverse test cuts, weight 17.117 g, maximum diameter 25.5 mm, die axis 270o, Athens mint, c. 454 - 404 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, almond shaped eye, crested helmet with olive leaves and floral scroll, wire necklace, round earring, hair in parallel curves; reverse AΘE right, owl standing right, head facing, erect in posture, olive sprig and crescent left, all within incuse square; ex Forum (2007); $800.00 (704.00)


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 It might be more appropriate to describe this coin as unpublished but perhaps the pattern is purely random and it is from the same mint and issue as the Kayhan or Von Aulock coin.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 -, Trait 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; $800.00 (704.00)


Phokaia, Ionia, c. 487 - 326 B.C.

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Phokaia (Phocaea) was the most northerly of the Ionian communities in Asia Minor and was the mother city of many colonies in the western Mediterranean area, including Massalia (modern Marseille, France).
SH75215. Electrum hekte, Bodenstedt 102, pl. 49 b/; BMC p. 212, 63; Weber 6084; Boston MFA 1920; SNGvA -; SNG Cop -, VF, fine style, crowded flan, light contact marks, weight 2.540 g, maximum diameter 10.2 mm, Phokaia (Foca, Turkey) mint, c. 477 - 388 B.C.; obverse laureate head of nymph left, hair in sakkos, seal right below; reverse quadripartite incuse square; $700.00 (616.00)


Lyttus, Crete, c. 450 - 320 B.C.

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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, boars head right in beaded square border, all within incuse square; rare; $680.00 (598.40)


Thasos, Thrace, c. 525 - 463 B.C.

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Nymphs are nature spirits who appear as beautiful, young nubile maidens. They dwell in mountains, valleys and groves, by springs and rivers, and also in trees and cool grottoes. Nymphs love to dance and sing and are the frequent target of satyrs. Satyrs are male companions of Pan and Dionysus with goat-like features, including a goat-tail, goat-like ears, and sometimes a goat-like phallus. As Dionysiac creatures, Satyrs are lovers of wine and women and ready for every physical pleasure. They are obsessed with nymphs.
SH70832. Silver stater, Le Rider Thasiennes 2, SNG Copenhagen 1009, HGC 6 331, SGCV I 1357, BMC Thrace 24, VF, minor roughness, polished, weight 8.125 g, maximum diameter 20.6 mm, die axis 0o, Thasos mint, c. 525 - 463 B.C.; obverse naked ithyphallic satyr in kneeling running attitude right carrying in his arms a struggling nymph who raises her right hand in protest, hair of both figures indicated by streaming lines; reverse quadripartite incuse square; ex CNG auction 288, lot 104; $670.00 (589.60)


Mytilene, Lesbos, c. 377 - 326 B.C.

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Mytilene was famous in ancient times for its great output of electrum coins struck from the late 6th through mid - 4th centuries B.C. The usual denomination was the hekte (1/6th stater). Warwick Wroth noted in the British Museum Catalog, "The Sixths of [this Lesbos electrum series] form one of the most beautiful coin-series of the ancient world. This will be evident from a glance."
SH75216. Electrum hekte, Bodenstedt Em. 86, pl. 56 f., -/η; HGC 6 1012 (R1); BMC Troas p. 163, 71, pl. XXXIII, 14; SNG Cop 319; SNGvA 7738; Trait II 2190, VF, fine style, contact marks, die wear, reverse off center low but full face on flan, weight 2.502 g, maximum diameter 11.3 mm, die axis 0o, Mytilene mint, c. 377 - 326 B.C.; obverse head of Athena facing slightly right, wearing crested Attic helmet, earring, and necklace; reverse draped bust of Hermes right, petasos on string hanging behind his neck, all within a linear square, trace of square incuse from die larger than the flan; rare; $650.00 (572.00)


Athens, Greece, Old Style Tetradrachm, c. 454 - 404 B.C.

Click for a larger photo
The old-style tetradrachm of Athens is famous for its almond shaped eye, archaic smile and charming owl reverse. Around 480 B.C. a wreath of olive leaves and a decorative scroll were added to Athena's helmet. On the reverse a crescent moon was added.

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.
GS73681. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG Mnchen 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, F, centered, obverse rough, test cuts, weight 16.302 g, maximum diameter 26.1 mm, die axis 45o, Athens mint, c. 454 - 404 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, almond shaped eye, crested helmet with olive leaves and floral scroll, wire necklace, round earring, hair in parallel curves; reverse AΘE right, owl standing right, head facing, erect in posture, olive sprig and crescent left, all within incuse square; $550.00 (484.00)


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

Click for a larger photo
Mytilene was famous in ancient times for its great output of electrum coins struck from the late 6th through mid - 4th centuries B.C. The usual denomination was the hekte (1/6th stater). Warwick Wroth noted in the British Museum Catalog, "The Sixths of [this Lesbos electrum series] form one of the most beautiful coin-series of the ancient world. This will be evident from a glance."
SH76128. Electrum hekte, Bodenstedt 37; BMC Lesbos p. 159, 39; SNGvA 1700; HGC 6 963; SNG Cop -, F, high relief, weight 2.442 g, maximum diameter 10.0 mm, die axis 180o, Mytilene mint, c. 454 - 427 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Silenos right; reverse two ram heads butting each other, palmette above, all in incuse square; $550.00 (484.00)


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 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; $400.00 (352.00)


Ionia, c. 520 - 490 B.C.

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Bodenstedt attributed this type to Mytilene. J. Spier, however, notes its Lydo-Milesian standard may indicate it was minted in Ionia, perhaps during the Ionian Revolt, see NC 1988, p. 221.
SH76665. Electrum 1/48 stater, Bodenstedt p. 183 and pl. 50, E2; cf. SNG Kayhan 734 (1/24 stater), Rosen 277 (1/12 stater), Weidauer -, Zhuyuetang -, SNGvA -, SNG Cop -, VF, perfect centering, light scratch, weight 0.292 g, maximum diameter 5.0 mm, uncertain Ionian mint, c. 520 - 490 B.C.; obverse head of calf right, neck ending in a row of dots; reverse roughly square incuse punch; extremely rare; $320.00 (281.60)




  



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Catalog current as of Tuesday, February 09, 2016.
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Archaic Origins