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Home>Catalog>CollectingThemes>Numismatics>ArchaicOrigins PAGE 1/7123»»»

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. 449 - 413 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.
SH90376. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31 ff., SGCV I 2526, NGC certified Choice VF, strike 4/5, Surface 2/5, graffito, 1983932-069, weight 17.13 g, maximum diameter 30 mm, die axis 45o, Athens mint, 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; $1530.00 (€1147.50)

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; $760.00 (€570.00)

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; $650.00 (€487.50)

Iberian Celts, Hacksilver, c. 3rd Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo
CE70515. Silver ingot, cut from a larger bar, 32.7mm, 26.964g (= one Roman ounce), $400.00 (€300.00)

Salamis, Cyprus, Evelthon, c. 560 - 520 B.C.
Click for a larger photo 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.
Click for a larger photo
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)

Akragas (Agrigentum), Sicily, c. 450 B.C.
Click for a larger photo 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)

Assos, Troas, c. 480 - 450 B.C.
Click for a larger photo 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.
GA63461. Silver tetartemorion, Klein 475 (Teos), SNG Kayhan -, BMC Ionia -, SNG Cop -, SNGvA -, VF, broad flan, weight 0.203 g, maximum diameter 6.7 mm, Assos mint, 480 - 450 B.C.; obverse griffin leaping right; reverse astragalos within incuse square; extremely rare; $250.00 (€187.50)

Sinope, Paphlagonia, c. 490 - 425 B.C.
Click for a larger photo 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, Colonia Julia 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)

Italy, c. 5th - 4th Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo Bronze axe heads were used for exchange across Europe even before 1000 B.C. This broken fragment of a bronze axe head dates much later, c. 5 - 4th Century B.C. It was never used to cut wood but was cast to served as currency, and was broken for change.
AR70508. Bronze Aes Formatum, Aes formatum bronze axe head fragment; maximum length 39.8mm, weight 38.814g, $250.00 (€187.50)

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Catalog current as of Monday, September 01, 2014.
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Archaic Origins