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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Greek Coins| ▸ |Greek Countermarked||View Options:  |  |  |   

Countermarked Ancient Greek Coins

A countermark is a stamped or punched impression adding elements of design to a coin after it was originally struck. The practice of countermarking coins was widespread throughout antiquity. It was particularly common in the provinces of the Roman Empire. Countermarks were applied to coins for many reasons, including revalidation, revaluation, devaluation, and propaganda. Exactly when and why any individual countermark was applied is often uncertain.


Larissa, Thessaly, Greece, c. 300 - 150 B.C.

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According to mythology, Larissa was founded by Acrisius, who was killed accidentally by his grandson, Perseus; the nymph Larissa was a daughter of the primordial man Pelasgu; Achilles was born at Larissa, and Hippocrates, the "Father of Medicine"; died there. Today, Larissa is the capital and largest city of the Thessaly region and an important commercial, agricultural, and industrial center of Greece.
GB92063. Bronze trichalkon, BCD Thessaly 1172.1 (same countermark), BCD Thessaly II 394.1 (same countermark), SNG Cop 147, Rogers 309, HGC 4 530 (S), BMC Thessaly -, VF, well centered, attractive dark patina, interesting countermark, some flatness of strike, edge crack, beveled obverse edge; c/m: VF, weight 11.952 g, maximum diameter 22.2 mm, die axis 270o, Larissa mint, c. 300 - 150 B.C.; obverse head of the nymph Larissa right, monogram behind; countermark on cheek: spiked helmet with visor, neck and cheek guards in a c. 6mm oval punch; reverse cavalryman prancing right, wearing spiked helmet, couched lance in right hand, star upper left, ΛA-PI/ΣNΩN divided above and below; ex Numismatik Lanz München, auction 112 (25 Nov 2002), 193; scarce; $400.00 (€352.00)
 


Alexandreia Troas, Troas, 2nd - 1st Century B.C.

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Alexandria Troas (modern Eski Stambul) is on the Aegean Sea near the northern tip of the west coast of Anatolia, a little south of Tenedos (modern Bozcaada). The city was founded by Antigonus around 310 B.C. with the name Antigoneia and was populated with the inhabitants of Cebren, Colone, Hamaxitus, Neandria, and Scepsis. About 301 B.C., Lysimachus improved the city and re-named it Alexandreia. Among the few structure ruins remaining today are a bath, an odeon, a theater and gymnasium complex and a stadium. The circuit of the old walls can still be traced.
CM89991. Bronze AE 19, SNG Cop 96 (same countermarks); cf. BMC Troas p. 12, 29 ff.; SNG München 92 f.; SNGvA 1461, coin: obverse mostly obscured by countermarks, reverse flattened by countermarking; countermarks: mostly VF, weight 5.358 g, maximum diameter 18.8 mm, Alexandria Troas (Eski Stambul, Turkey) mint, 2nd - 1st Century B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo facing (only upper left side of face and left eye visible); c/m: 1) lyre in 7mm round punch, 2) female head right within 7mm round punch, 3) uncertain (mouse?); reverse lyre, AΛEΞAN (or similar) around, all within laurel wreath; c/m: horse head right; $120.00 (€105.60)
 


Paphos, Cyprus, Timarchos, c. 350 - 332 B.C.

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Doves are a symbol of peace but also a romantic symbol of love. The dove relates to romance because Greek mythology associated the small, white bird with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Aphrodite's jewel-encrusted, golden chariot was drawn through the sky by a team of doves.
GB92215. Bronze AE 16, Bank of Cyprus 20 (same countermark), Tziambazis 91, BMC Cyprus -, SNG Cop -, Lindgren -, Fair/Fine, dark green patina, porous, weight 2.707 g, maximum diameter 15.7 mm, die axis 45o, Paphos mint, c. 350 - 332 B.C.; obverse head of Aphrodite left, wearing stephane, single drop earring, and necklace; reverse dove standing right, star above; countermark: rose in a round punch; $40.00 (€35.20)
 


Thracians, Odrysian Kingdom, Hebryzelmis, c. 389 - 383 B.C.

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Hebryzelmis was a king of the Odrysian kingdom of Thrace, c. 389 - 383 B.C. Hebrizelm Hill on Greenwich Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named for Hebryzelmis. Based on several other examples with the same countermark placement, the countermarks were carefully placed to fit well with the design. In addition, a similar punch is found on at least one other examples, also near the nose.
GB89989. Bronze AE 17, Topalov p. 239, 86 (same countermarks, same placement), F, green patina with red areas, some corrosion, punch on nose, weight 4.974 g, maximum diameter 17.1 mm, die axis 180o, c. 389 - 383 B.C.; obverse turreted head of Cybele right, countermark: PH monogram in rectangular incuse (on neck); reverse Two-handled cup with a round body and conical mouth, EB-PY divided across field, grain ear right below, countermark: gorgoneion in round incuse (on vessel side); very rare; $180.00 (€158.40)
 


Alexandreia Troas, Troas, 2nd - 1st Century B.C.

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Alexandria Troas (modern Eski Stambul) is on the Aegean Sea near the northern tip of the west coast of Anatolia, a little south of Tenedos (modern Bozcaada). The city was founded by Antigonus around 310 B.C. with the name Antigoneia and was populated with the inhabitants of Cebren, Colone, Hamaxitus, Neandria, and Scepsis. About 301 B.C., Lysimachus improved the city and re-named it Alexandreia. Among the few structure ruins remaining today are a bath, an odeon, a theater and gymnasium complex and a stadium. The circuit of the old walls can still be traced.
CM89990. Bronze AE 19, SNG Cop 96 (same countermarks); cf. BMC Troas p. 12, 29 ff.; SNG München 92 f.; SNGvA 1461, F, scattered porosity, edge crack, clear countermarks, weight 3.948 g, maximum diameter 18.6 mm, die axis 0o, Alexandria Troas (Eski Stambul, Turkey) mint, 2nd - 1st Century B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo facing; c/m: lyre; reverse lyre, AΛEΞAN (or similar) around), all within laurel wreath; c/m: star of six rays around a central pellet within a 7.5mm round punch; $120.00 (€105.60)
 


Augustus, 16 January 27 B.C. - 19 August 14 A.D., Sestos, Thracian Chersonesos

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Sestos was an ancient town of the Thracian Chersonesos, the modern Gallipoli peninsula in European Turkey. Situated on the Hellespont opposite Abydos, it was an Aeolian colony, founded by settlers from Lesbos, and the home of Hero in the legend of Hero and Leander.
CM89992. Bronze AE 18, RPC I 1740 (2 spec.; RPC online 6 spec., 2 with c/m), Varbanov III 2967 (R7); c/m: Howqego 460 (1 spec., same coin type, same placement), VF, tight flan, reverse a bit flattened opposite countermark, weight 3.485 g, maximum diameter 17.6 mm, die axis 0o, Sestos mint, obverse CEBACTOY, bare head right, countermark: six pointed star in a 7mm round punch; reverse CHCTI, lyre; very rare; $180.00 (€158.40)
 


Pergamene Kingdom, 282 - 263 B.C.

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Philetaerus deserted Lysimachus in 282 B.C., taking control of Pergamon and a large treasure deposited there. At first nominally a Seleukid suzerainty, Pergamon grew into a strong, prosperous and independent kingdom. These bronze coins were struck in the name of the founder throughout all succeeding reigns.
GB89993. Bronze AE 13, SNG BnF 1682 ff.; SNG Tübingen 2370 ff.; SNG Cop 349; BMC Mysia p. 119, 58 ff., VF, dark patina with some copper on high points, light marks, light porosity, weight 1.812 g, maximum diameter 12.7 mm, Pergamon (Bergama, Turkey) mint, c. 282 - 263 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, wearing Macedonian helmet; reverse strung bow, ΦIΛE/TAIPOY divided in two lines above and below, countermark: anchor; $50.00 (€44.00)
 


Macedonian Kingdom, Philip III Arrhidaeus and Alexander IV, 323 - 317 B.C., In the Name of Philip

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This same type was also issued, presumably later, with a kerykeion between the B and the A below the rider. The countermark probably indicated this older coin was equal to the newer coins.
GB92911. Bronze AE 19, SNG München 979 (same countermark), Price P2, SNG Cop 124, HGC 3.1 980 (S), SNG ANS -, SNG Alpha Bank -, VF, well centered, dark green patina, reverse die wear, minor pitting/spots of corrosion, weight 6.163 g, maximum diameter 19.3 mm, die axis 0o, Pella mint, 323 - 317 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, clad in Nemean Lion skin headdress; reverse youth on horse prancing right, arm extended above horse's head, cloak flying behind, ΦI (Philip) above, BA (Bασιλεως = king) below; countermark: kerykeion in a round punch; ex Savoca Numismatik auction 32 (14 Apr 2019), lot 27; scarce; $95.00 (€83.60)
 


Side, Pamphylia, c. 145 - 125 B.C.

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In 190 B.C. a fleet from Rhodes, supported by Rome and Pergamum, defeated the Seleucid fleet under the command of the fugitive Carthaginian general Hannibal. The Seleucid defeat freed Side from the overlord-ship of the Seleucid Empire. The Treaty of Apamea (188 B.C.) left Side in a state of uncertain freedom. It was during this period of autonomy that Side struck these tetradrachms. It would last until 36 B.C. when the city came under the rule of the Roman client King of Galatia, Amyntas.
GS92896. Silver tetradrachm, SNGvA 4796 (also with anchor c/m); SNG BnF 694; BMC Pamphylia p. 148, 46 (KΛE-YX), Choice VF, well centered, reverse strike a little flat, obverse flattened opposite of countermark, weight 16.505 g, maximum diameter 28.8 mm, die axis 0o, Side (near Selimiye, Antalya Province, Turkey) mint, magistrate Kleuch-, c. 145 - 125 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right in a crested Corinthian helmet; reverse Nike advancing left, wreath extended in right hand, pomegranate in left field, KΛ-E (magistrate's name) divided across field below center; countermark: anchor within incuse rectangle; ex Numismatik Naumann auction 77 (5 May 2019), lot 287; $500.00 (€440.00)
 


Trajan, 25 January 98 - 8 or 9 August 117 A.D., Struck at Rome for use in Syria

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This type is typically attributed to Antioch, but recent metallurgical tests suggest it was struck by the Rome mint for use in Syria.

In 115, Trajan was in Antioch for his war against Parthia, when the city was struck by an earthquake. He was forced to take shelter in the circus for several days. He and his successor restored the city.
RB91688. Orichalcum as, Woytek 937x (4 spec.), McAlee 507, RIC II 648, BMCRE III 1090 var. (bust), SRCV II 3243 var. (same); c/m: Howgego 378 (Antioch), aF, centered, roughly cleaned, partial green patina, brassy high points, scratches, weight 8.318 g, maximum diameter 24.4 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, c. 115 - 116 A.D.; obverse IMP CAES NER TRAIANO OPTIMO AVG GERM, radiate heroic bust right, slight drapery on left shoulder (chest and back); countermark: laurel branch with four leaves in a rectangular punch; reverse DAC PARTHICO P M TR POT XX COS VI P P, large S C in wreath; from the Maxwell Hunt Collection; very rare; $80.00 (€70.40)
 




  






REFERENCES|

Baker, R. "The Countermarks Found on Ancient Roman Coins: A Brief Introduction" in SAN XV (1984). pp. 52-58.
Barag, D. "The countermarks of the Legio Decima Fretensis" in Kindler Patterns. (Tel-Aviv, 1967).
Barag, D. & S. Qedar. "A Countermark of the Legio Quinta Scytica from the Jewish War" in INJ 13 (1994).
Bauslaugh, R. "Cistophoric Countermarks and the Monetary System of Eumenes II" in NC 1990.
Calciati, R. Corpus Nummorum Siculorum. The Bronze Coinage. (Milan, 1983 - 1987).
Davesne, A. "Une contremarque au trident sur certaines monnaies de Ptolémée II Philadelphe" in BSFN 42/2 (Feb. 1987), pp. 145-149.
Elayi, J. & A. Lemaire. Graffiti et contremarques ouest-sémitiques sur les monnaies grecques et proche-orientales. Glaux 13. (Milan, 1998).
Howgego, C.J. Greek Imperial Countermarks. RNS, Special Publication No. 17. (London, 1985).
Martini, R. Nomismata 6: The Pangerl Collection Catalog and Commentary on the Countermarked Roman Imperial Coins. (Milan, 2003).
McAlee, R. The Coins of Roman Antioch. (Lancaster, PA, 2007).
Rosenberger, M. The Rosenberger Israel Collection Vol. IV: The Coinage of Eastern Palestine, and legionary countermarks, Bar-Kochba overstruck. (Jerusalem, 1978).
Sear, D. Greek Coins and Their Values, Vol. 1: Europe. (London, 1978).
Sear, D. Greek Coins and Their Values, Vol. 2: Asia and Africa. (London, 1979).
Seyrig, H. "Monnaies contremarquées en Syrie," in Syria 35 (1958), pp. 187-197.
Topalov, S. New Contributions to the Study of the Countermarking of Coins in the Area of the West Pontic Cities, 3rd-1st c. B.C. (Sofia, 2002).
Waggoner, N. "The Propontis Hoard" in NR XII, 1979, pp. 7 - 29, plates I - X.
Werz, U. Gegenstempel auf Reichs - und Provinzialprägungen der römischen Kaiserzeit - Katalog der Sammlung Dr. Konrad Bech, Mainz. (Speyer, 2004).

Catalog current as of Thursday, November 21, 2019.
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Greek Countermarked