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Home>Catalog>CollectingThemes>Numismatics>ArchaicOrigins PAGE 1/8123

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 . . .


Ionia (Uncertain City), c. 600 - 550 B.C.
Click for a larger photo
SH90673. Electrum hemihekte, Unpublished in references but examples (all from the same dies) known from trade; Naville VII, 1924 (Bement Collection), lot 1435, gVF, weight 1.282 g, maximum diameter 8.5 mm, uncertain Ionian mint, c. 600 - 550 B.C.; obverse siren standing left, with the body of a bird and human head wearing cap with a long curl; reverse irregular square incuse punch; ex Roma Numismatics e-Sale 3 (30 Nov 2013), lot 201; very rare; $1000.00 (750.00)

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, boars 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)

Phokaia, Ionia, c. 387 - 326 B.C.
Click for a larger photo 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)

Ionia (Uncertain City), c. 600 B.C.
Click for a larger photo Third example of this early electrum fraction known to Forum.
SH72612. Electrum 1/24th stater, unpublished in standard references, Ponterio & Associates, sale 152 (NYINC, 8 Jan 2010), lot 5874 (same dies); FORVM SH21301 (same), VF, weight 0.532 g, maximum diameter 6.4 mm, uncertain Ionian mint, c. 600 B.C.; obverse head of stag left; reverse incuse punch with curved lines; $550.00 (412.50)

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)

Iberian Celts, Hacksilver, c. 300 - 150 B.C.
Click for a larger photo  
CE70515. Silver hacksilver fragment, cut, perhaps from a disk ingot; cf. Kim and Kroll 59; Van Alfen Hacksilber 53 ff., 26.964g, 32.7mm, $320.00 (240.00)

Celt-Iberian, Billon Ring Money, c. 2nd Century B.C.
Click for a larger photo Rings of the type have been found in Central Europe, France, Britain, and Spain. In Spain they are often found alongside silver bar and disk ingots, and 2nd Century B.C. denarii of the Roman Republic. This example is double the size and weight of more common examples.
CE72233. Silver Ring Money, large ring, debased silver, narrowing to split, cf. Alvarez-Burgos P5 (5.0 - 6.6g, no narrowing), VF, weight 13.139 g, maximum diameter 32.4 mm, c. 2nd Century B.C.; $300.00 (225.00)

Lesbos, 550 - 480 B.C.
Click for a larger photo 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 Mnchen 650; SNGvA 7716; SNG Cop 292; HGC 6 1074 (R1); BMC Troas, p. 152, 27; Trait 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; reverse incuse square; rare; $290.00 (217.50)

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)



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Catalog current as of Friday, December 19, 2014.
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Archaic Origins