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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Greek Coins| ▸ |Archaic Origins||View Options:  |  |  |   

Archaic Origins - The First Coins of Mankind

The coins below are among the first struck by mankind. Coins struck in the later classical and Hellenistic periods, but in archaic or archaized style are also included here. Click here to read "From the Origin of Coins to Croesus."


Kyzikos, Mysia, c. 550 - 450 B.C.

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Seirios (Sirius) was the god or goddess of the Dog-Star, the brightest star of the constellation Canis Major. The pre-dawn rising of the star in the path of the sun was believed to be the source of the scorching heat and droughts of midsummer. Seirios appears in many guises was variously described as Maira daughter of the Titan Atlas, Maira the dog of the hero Icarius, Lailaps the hound of Orion, and Kyon Khryseos the golden-hound of Zeus. It may also have been associated with Orthros ("Morning Twilight") the hound of Geryon, giant of the west. The star was no doubt also connected with the dog-loving goddess Hekate who was the daughter of Perses "the Destroyer" and Asteria "the Starry One." -- www.theoi.com/Titan/AsterSeirios.html
SH86217. Electrum stater, Von Fritze I (Nomisma VII) 104 & pl. 3, 23; Boston MFA 1433; SNG BnF 245; SNG Cop -; SNGvA -; BMC Mysia -, VF, tight flan, edge cracks, weight 16.091 g, maximum diameter 19.9 mm, die axis 0o, Kyzikos mint, c. 550 - 450 B.C.; obverse winged dog (Sirius?) seated left, head turned back right, curved archaic wing, wearing collar, tunny fish below to left; reverse quadripartite incuse square; extremely rare; $5850.00 (€5148.00)
 


Ionia, c. 650 - 600 B.C., Striated Type

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Mankind's first coin type with an obverse and reverse! Rare and important. The earliest dated coin hoard was deposited in the foundation of the Artemision, the temple of Artemis at Ephesos, as an offering during construction, c. 600 B.C. These earliest coins, which included this type, were struck from electrum, a natural alloy of gold and silver found as nuggets in the rivers and streams of Lydia and Ionia. This striated type is the first type to have an obverse design in addition to the reverse punch. Because of its simple obverse design, it is described by some authorities as the first true coin.
SH87928. Electrum hekte, 1/6 stater, Milesian standard; Weidauer 6, Traité I 12, SNGvA 1769, SNG Kayhan 680, Karwiese Artemision I.6, SNG Fitzwilliam -, Rosen -, Zhuyuetang -, VF, light marks, earthen deposits, weight 2.293 g, maximum diameter 10.2 mm, Ionia, uncertain mint, c. 650 - 600 B.C.; obverse flattened striated surface; reverse two rough approximately square incuse punches; rare and important; $5400.00 (€4752.00)
 


Western Anatolia, c. 620 - 600 B.C., Plain Globular Type

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Certificate of Authenticity issued by David R. Sear.

Unpublished! The majority of the earliest electrum issues were struck on the lighter Milesian weight standard, with hectes weighing approximately 2.35 grams. This example, however is on the heavier Phocaic standard that was used at mints such as Cyzicus, Mysia and Phocaea, Ionia.
SH85577. Electrum hekte, Phokaic standard 1/6 stater; unpublished, EF, flan cracks, weight 2.721 g, maximum diameter 8.96 mm, uncertain western Anatolia mint, c. 620 - 600 B.C.; obverse plain globular surface; reverse one small incuse square punch; extremely rare; $2560.00 (€2252.80)
 


Thasos, Thrace, c. 480 - 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.
GA87298. Silver stater, SNG Cop 1013; Svoronos HPM p. 97, 12, pl. X, 21; McClean 4198; Franke-Hirmer 436; BMC Thrace p. 218, 28; HGC 6 331, gVF, well centered and struck, light tone, die wear, weight 8.833 g, maximum diameter 23.1 mm, Thasos mint, c. 480 - 463 B.C.; obverse nude ithyphallic satyr kneeling-running right, carrying in his arms a struggling nymph, raising her right hand in protest, both with long strait hair indicated with lines, she wears a long chiton, her palm is facing, Θ (Thasos) below; reverse quadripartite incuse square; ex Steven Battelle, ex Harlan J. Berk, buy or bid sale 198 (7 Jul 2016), lot 74; rare with Θ; $1100.00 (€968.00)
 


Kyzikos, Mysia, c. 500 - 450 B.C.

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Cyzicus was one of the great cities of the ancient world. It was said to have been founded by Pelasgians from Thessaly, according to tradition at the coming of the Argonauts; later, allegedly in 756 B.C., it received many colonists from Miletus. Owing to its advantageous position it speedily acquired commercial importance, and the gold staters of Cyzicus were a staple currency in the ancient world till they were superseded by those of Philip of Macedon. The site of Cyzicus, located on the Erdek and Bandirma roads, is protected by Turkey's Ministry of Culture.
SL89446. Electrum hekte, SNG BnF 241; SNGvA 1180; BMC Mysia p. 32, 98; Von Fritze I 102; Rosen 482; de Luynes pl. XCII 2460; SNG Cop -, NGC XF, strike 3/5, surface 3/5 (2490378-004), weight 2.674 g, maximum diameter 11.4 mm, Kyzikos (Kapu Dagh, Turkey) mint, c. 500 - 450 B.C.; obverse satyr left, tunny fish vertical with head down to left; reverse quadripartite incuse square; extremely rare; $1000.00 (€880.00)
 


Aegina, Saronic Islands, Greece, 480 - 440 B.C.

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Aegina was probably the first place in Europe to issue coinage, because of that the turtle coin type is considered a "must have" by many ancient coin collectors.


Click here to read about Greek Turtles.
GA92200. Silver stater, Meadows, Aegina, Group IIIa; Milbank Period III, pl. I, 15; SNG Cop 507; Dewing 1674; Gulbenkian 523; Jameson 1199; HGC 6 435, F, lightly etched surfaces, minor scratches, banker's marks, weight 12.109 g, maximum diameter 19.7 mm, Aegina mint, 480 - 440 B.C.; obverse sea turtle with smooth shell and row of dots down the middle; reverse incuse punch, five compartments divided by broad bars into a skew pattern; ex CNG e-auction 246 (15 Dec 2010), lot 79; $950.00 (€836.00)
 


Roman Republic, Large Domed Ingot, Aes Formatum, 4th Century B.C.

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Called aes formatum by Haeberlin, this very rare bronze currency was a precursor to the issues of aes grave but later than aes rude. Presumably, molten bronze-iron alloy was poured into a shallow hole in the dirt. This left a disc-shaped metal mound with a flat reverse. Broken examples are much more common than complete ones like this.
AR11900. Cast bronze Aes Formatum, Haeberlin p. 4, pl. 2.7; 1.64 kg (3 lbs, 10 oz), maximum diameter 14.6 cm, Italian mint, 4th century B.C.; obverse convex obverse; reverse flat reverse; the denarius is in the photograph to indicate the size, denarius not included, international shipping at the actual cost of postage will require additional charge; very rare; $720.00 (€633.60)
 


Cyprus, Early 5th Century B.C.

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The obverse die was used to strike three different issues, with different reverses. This type is from the third issue, when the obverse die was heavily worn and the ankh was engraved over the ram. The published specimens have no symbol or monogram on the reverse. There are other examples of this variant on Coin Archives.
GS87794. Silver stater, Apparently unpublished variant; cf. Zapiti-Michaelidou pl. VIII, 2; Asyut pl. XXXII, N; Troxell-Waggoner p. 35, 8-9; Tziambazis -; Traité -; BMC -, aVF/VF, struck with the worn obverse die (as are all coins from this issue), slightly off center, light bumps and marks, weight 10.662 g, maximum diameter 18.6 mm, die axis 270o, uncertain Cypriot mint, early 5th century B.C.; obverse ram walking left, ankh symbol superimposed on and above the ram's side and back (the ankh symbol was recut on a heavily worn die); reverse laurel branch with two leaves and three fruits, monogram lower left, all in dotted square within incuse square; rare; $540.00 (€475.20)
 


Cyprus, Early 5th Century B.C.

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The obverse die was used to strike three different issues, with different reverses. This type is from the third issue, when the obverse die was heavily worn and the ankh was engraved over the ram. The published specimens have no symbol or monogram on the reverse. There are other examples of this variant on Coin Archives.
GS89724. Silver stater, Apparently unpublished variant; cf. Zapiti-Michaelidou pl. VIII, 2; Asyut pl. XXXII, N; Troxell-Waggoner p. 35, 8-9; Tziambazis -; Traité -; BMC -, F/VF, struck with a worn obverse die, weight 10.805 g, maximum diameter 20.2 mm, die axis 90o, uncertain Cypriot mint, early 5th century B.C.; obverse ram walking left, ankh symbol superimposed on and above the ram's side and back (the ankh symbol was recut on a heavily worn die); reverse laurel branch with two leaves and three fruits, ankh symbol on left, monogram lower right, all in dotted square within incuse square; rare; $500.00 (€440.00)
 


Lydian Kingdom, Alyattes, c. 610 - 560 B.C.

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Alyattes (Lydian: Walwates?) reigned c. 610 - 560 B.C. He was succeeded by his son Croesus. A battle between his forces and those of Cyaxares, king of Media, was interrupted by the solar eclipse of 28 May 584 B.C. After this, a truce was agreed and Alyattes married his daughter Aryenis to Astyages, the son of Cyaxares. The alliance preserved Lydia for another generation, during which it enjoyed its most brilliant period. Alyattes continued to wage a war against Miletos for many years but eventually he heeded the Delphic Oracle and rebuilt a temple, dedicated to Athena, which his soldiers had destroyed. He then made peace with Miletos.
SH93570. Electrum hekte, 1/6 stater; cf. Weidauer Group XVII, F, obverse porous, low weight, struck with a very worn obverse die, weight 1.907 g, maximum diameter 9.6 mm, Sardes (Sart, Turkey) mint, c. 610 - 560 B.C.; obverse head of lion left, roaring, jaws open, solar disk with four rays on forehead, [confronting another lion head facing right, WALWET in retrograde Lydian script] (as usual for the denomination only one of the lion heads is on the flan); reverse double incuse square punch; ex Roma e-sale 58 (20 Jun 2019), lot 280; ex private Swiss collection; $500.00 (€440.00)
 




  



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REFERENCES|

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Catalog current as of Monday, October 14, 2019.
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The Archaic Origins of Coinage