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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."


Gebal (Byblos), Phoenicia, c. 450 - 410 B.C.

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The extremely rare first coinage of Byblos, struck with Egyptian types at an Egyptian weight standard (one kite). A beautiful representation of an Egyptian sphinx in the pose of the famous Giza monumental statue graces the obverse.

Head notes, "Herodotus relates (iv. 166) that Aryandes, who had been appointed satrap of Egypt by Cambyses, mortally offended Darius, son of Hystaspes, by issuing silver money which rivalled in purity the gold darics of the great king himself. If the story be true, it probably refers to ordinary Persian sigloi. No coins have come down to us which can be identified as those of Aryandes." Could this coin be the one of those issued by Aryandes?
SH38939. Silver shekel, Betlyon 1, Kraay 1051, SNG Cop -, gVF, toned, weight 8.907 g, maximum diameter 20.2 mm, die axis 0o, Gebal mint, obverse Sphinx seated left, wearing crown of Upper and Lower Egypt; reverse lightning bolt (or double lotus) in dotted circle within incuse square; almost equal in quality to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and American Numismatic Society examples; extremely rare; SOLD


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.
SH28071. Electrum hekte, Milesian standard; Weidauer 6, Traité I 12, SNGvA 1769, SNG Kayhan 680, Karwiese Artemision I.6, SNG Fitzwilliam -, Rosen -, Zhuyuetang -, VF, weight 2.373 g, maximum diameter 8.6 mm, Ionia, uncertain mint, c. 650 - 600 B.C.; obverse flattened striated surface; reverse two rough approximately square incuse punches; rare and important; SOLD


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.
SH82694. Electrum hekte, Milesian standard; Weidauer 6, Traité I 12, SNGvA 1769, SNG Kayhan 680, Karwiese Artemision I.6, SNG Fitzwilliam -, Rosen -, Zhuyuetang -, VF, weight 2.365 g, maximum diameter 8.7 mm, Ionia, uncertain mint, c. 650 - 600 B.C.; obverse flattened striated surface; reverse two rough approximately square incuse punches; ex Harlan J. Berk; rare and important; SOLD


Phokaia, Ionia, c. 625 - 522 B.C.

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Phocaea, or Phokaia, was an ancient Ionian Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia. Greek colonists from Phocaea founded the colony of Massalia (modern day Marseille, in France) in 600 B.C., Emporion (modern day Empúries, in Catalonia, Spain) in 575 B.C. and Elea (modern day Velia, in Campania, Italy) in 540 B.C.
SH86204. Electrum hekte, Triton XVI, lot 464; Bodenstedt - (cf. Em. 1), aEF, well centered and struck, small edge cracks, weight 2.575 g, maximum diameter 10.3 mm, die axis 0o, Phokaia (Foca, Turkey) mint, c. 625/0 - 522 B.C.; obverse forepart of seal right, dolphin swimming downward behind, annulet or ring below; reverse irregular incuse square punch; ex Numismatik Naumann auction 40, lot 270; extremely rare; SOLD


Aegina, Saronic Islands, Greece, c. 456 or 445 - 431 B.C.

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Kraay, Archaic and Classical Greek Coins, 1976, p. 47, says the tortoise coins with segmented shell were probably introduced c. 456 BC, perhaps connected with the capture of Aegina by the Athenians in 457/456, or maybe in 445, when the Thirty Years Peace guaranteed Aegina's autonomy.
SH77372. Silver stater, SNG Delepierre 1793; SNG Cop 516; SNG München 561; BMC Attica p. 137, 146; Kraay 127; Dewing 1683; Milbank pl. 2, 12; SGCV I 2600; HGC 6 437, aEF, attractive tortoise struck in high relief, banker's marks, light graffito obverse left field, flan crack, weight 11.987 g, maximum diameter 22.2 mm, Aigina (Aegina) mint, c. 456/445 - 431 B.C.; obverse land tortoise (Testudo marginata), shell segmented into 13 plates, seen from above; reverse incuse square divided into five compartments by bands in a skew pattern; ex Heritage Auction 3020 (Long Beach, 6-11 Sep 2012), lot 24968; SOLD


Athens, Attica, Greece, c. 454 - 449 B.C., Very Early "Old Style" Tetradrachm

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On this coin and all classic "old style" tetradrachms struck c. 454 - 404 B.C., the owl's tail feathers are represented by a single prong. On Athens' earlier issues, the owl's tail is composed of three separate feathers. Other than the single prong tail, this coin closely resembles the preceding issues of Starr Group V, in particular the palmette and olive leaves on Athena's helmet, and the narrow, deep incuse of the reverse. It is very likely this coin was among the earliest of the classical "old style" tetradrachms of the c. 545 - 404 B.C. issues.
SH87206. Silver tetradrachm, some characteristics of Starr Group V, but a single prong tail; cf. Svoronos Athens pl. 10, 16 - 18; Starr pl. XXII, 1 - 3; SNG München 46, Choice aEF, bold high relief, flow lines, light toning, bumps and marks, tight flan, edge cracks, weight 17.143 g, maximum diameter 24.2 mm, die axis 0o, Athens mint, c. 454 - 449 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, almond shaped eye, crested helmet with olive leaves and floral palmette scroll, wire necklace, round earring, hair in parallel curves; reverse robust owl standing right, head facing, tail of one long prong, olive sprig and crescent left, AΘE downward on right, all within incuse square; rare style variant; SOLD


Athens, Attica, Greece, c. 465 - 454 B.C., Transitional Early "Old Style" Tetradrachm

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This rare transitional early "old style" type features the most attractive owls of the entire Athenian tetradrachm series.
SH86209. Silver tetradrachm, Starr Group V.B, Series 2, 180; Svoronos Athens pl. 10, 9; HGC 4 1596 (R2); SNG Cop -, Choice VF, well centered and struck with high relief dies, superb owl, tight flan cutting off most of crest as usual for the type, bumps and marks, uneven hoard toning, weight 17.143 g, maximum diameter 23.3 mm, die axis 180o, Athens mint, c. 465 - 454 B.C.; 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 robust owl standing right, head facing, tail composed of three short feathers, olive sprig and crescent left, AΘE downward on right, all within incuse square; rare; SOLD


Athens, Attica, Greece, c. 454 - 404 B.C., Old Style Tetradrachm

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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.
SH90226. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG München 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, gEF, weight 17.184 g, maximum diameter 25.3 mm, die axis 180o, Athens mint, c. 454 - 404 B.C.; 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 owl standing right, head facing, erect in posture, olive sprig and crescent left, AΘE downward on right, all within incuse square; ex Heritage CICF World and Ancient Coins Signature Auction 3032, lot 23180; ex The Dr. Patrick Tan Collection; SOLD


Ionia, c. 600 - 550 B.C.

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As reported by B.V. Head in Chapter 5 of Excavations at Ephesus: The Archaic Artemisia, a coin of this type was one of five coins found in excavations underneath the foundations of the southern wall of the B cella of the Artemisia at Ephesus. The other four coins were lion head and lion paw types. Head wrote these coins must have been deposited during construction of the First Temple (A). Weidauer 145 is the coin found at the Artemisia (= Head Artemisia 79), now at the Arkeoloji Müzesi, Istanbul. The Weidauer coins have more wear (die wear?) than our coin, but do appear to be from the same obverse die.
SH75300. Electrum 1/24 stater, Milesian standard; Weidauer 145 - 146; Head Artemisia p. 86 and pl. 2, 79; cf. SNGvA 1781 (different style); Rosen 287 (same); SNG Kayhan 717 (same), EF, perhaps the finest known of a very rare and important type, weight 0.597 g, maximum diameter 6.7 mm, uncertain Ionian mint, c. 600 - 550 B.C.; obverse bridled head and neck of Pegasos left, with top edge of wing visible; reverse raised cross pattern within incuse square punch; ex Tkalec AG auction Feb 2013, lot 88, realized 2,000 Swiss francs ($2,151) plus fees; ex Gorny & Mosch auction 199 (10 Oct 2011), realized 2,000 EUR ($2,699) plus fees; very rare; SOLD


Persian Empire, Artaxerxes I - Darius III, c. 450 - 330 B.C., Lydia

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This type was minted in Lydia, Anatolia, while under Persian control, prior to Alexander the Great's conquest. The Persian or Achaemenid Empire (c. 550 - 330 B.C.) was the largest empire in ancient history extending across Asia, Africa and Europe, including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, parts of Central Asia, Asia Minor, Thrace and Macedonia, much of the Black Sea coastal regions, Iraq, northern Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine and Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and much of ancient Egypt as far west as Libya.Persian Empire
SH30327. Gold daric, SGCV II 4679, Choice gVF, excellent style, weight 8.276 g, maximum diameter 16.6 mm, obverse Kneeling-running figure of the Great King right, transverse spear downward in right hand, bow in extended left hand, bearded, crowned; reverse Oblong punch; American Numismatic Association Certifiction Service photo certificate of authenticity, dated 11-2-78; SOLD




  




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REFERENCES|

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Catalog current as of Thursday, September 19, 2019.
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The Archaic Origins of Coinage