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)
Ionia, c. 650 - 600 B.C.
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 electrum pieces were within the famous "Artemision Find" at Ephesus in 1904.
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)
Salamis, Cyprus, Evelthon, c. 560 - 520 B.C.
Evelthon is the first historically documented king of Salamis and the first king of Salamis to strike coins. Coins probably continued to be struck in his name after his death.
GS69897. Silver 1/12 siglos, Tziambazis 98, Bank of Cyprus 7, BMC Cyprus 9, SNG Cop 33, SGCV 3590, F, toned, weight 0.832 g, maximum diameter 9.9 mm, die axis 0o, Salamis mint, c. 530 - 500 B.C.; obverse Cyprosyllabic inscription: elu, ram head right; reverse smooth blank; rare; $380.00 (€285.00)
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)