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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Themes & Provenance| ▸ |Numismatics| ▸ |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."

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

|Athens|, |Athens,| |Attica,| |Greece,| |c.| |454| |-| |404| |B.C.,| |Old| |Style| |Tetradrachm||tetradrachm|
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.
SL97993. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG Munchen 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, NGC Ch AU (Choice about Uncirculated), strike 5/5, surface 5/5 (6156171-001), weight 17.199 g, maximum diameter 25.7 mm, die axis 180o, Athens mint, c. 420 - 413 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 Classical Numismatic Group, NGC| Lookup; $2350.00 (€1927.00)
 


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

|Athens|, |Athens,| |Attica,| |Greece,| |c.| |454| |-| |404| |B.C.,| |Old| |Style| |Tetradrachm||tetradrachm|
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.
SL97988. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG Munchen 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, NGC Ch AU (Choice about Uncirculated), strike 5/5, surface 5/5 (6156171-003), weight 17.196 g, maximum diameter 25.3 mm, die axis 225o, Athens mint, c. 440 - 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 Classical Numismatic Group, NGC| Lookup; $2350.00 SALE PRICE $2115.00
 


Sybaris, Lucania, Italy, c. 550 - 510 B.C.

|Italy|, |Sybaris,| |Lucania,| |Italy,| |c.| |550| |-| |510| |B.C.||nomos|
The origin of this unusual design is difficult to pinpoint (Rutter 1997). It served no practical purpose in facilitating the stacking of coins, since even with matching images in relief and negative, irregularities would have hindered this method of storage. It has been suggested that Pythagoras, who lived in all three of the cities that pioneered incuse coins and died in Metapontum itself, introduced the technique in an attempt to realize in concrete form a confrontation of opposites that was characteristic of the Pythagorean system of thought. Despite the poetic appeal of this suggestion, it seems highly unlikely, considering that the incuse technique appears to have been adopted about twenty years before Pythagoras made it to southern Italy.
SH98006. Silver nomos, Dewing 405, SNG ANS 817, HN Italy 1729, HGC I 1231 (S), F, porous, scratches, weight 6.930 g, maximum diameter 27.9 mm, die axis 0o, Sybaris mint, c. 550 - 510 B.C.; obverse bull standing left, head turned back right, YM above, dotted border between two circles; reverse incuse of obverse; from the CEB Collection, ex Frank L. Kovacs; scarce; $800.00 (€656.00)
 


Iberia, Hackgold and Hacksilver, c. 300 - 150 B.C.

|Iberia|, |Iberia,| |Hackgold| |and| |Hacksilver,| |c.| |300| |-| |150| |B.C.||Lot|
 
GA98193. Mixed Lot, See Maria Paz Garcia-Bellido (2011), "Hackgold and Hacksilber in protomonetary Iberia", one piece of gold hackgold (3.184) and two pieces of hacksilver (2.483g and 1.790g), all found in Spain, three pieces in lot; $650.00 (€533.00)
 


Roman Republic and Central Italy, Cast Aes Rude, c. 5th - 4th Century B.C., 20 Fragments

|before| |211| |B.C.|, |Roman| |Republic| |and| |Central| |Italy,| |Cast| |Aes| |Rude,| |c.| |5th| |-| |4th| |Century| |B.C.,| |20| |Fragments||Lot|
In Italy, as with other nations, early trade used a system of barter. Aes rude (Latin: "rough bronze"), used perhaps as early as the early 8th century B.C., was the earliest metal proto-currency in central Italy. In the 5th century B.C., bronze replaced cattle as the primary measure of value in trade. Aes rude are rough lumpy bronze ingots with no marks or design, some are flat and oblong, others are square, while many are irregular and shapeless. The metal is mostly copper with roughly 5% tin. Weight varies considerably with some exceeding twelve pounds and others under an ounce. Many smaller examples are fragments of broken larger specimens. A balance was necessary to measure value for commercial transactions.
LT96143. Bronze Lot, Lot of 20 aes rude fragments, cf. BMCRR I p. 1, Haeberlin pl. 1, Vecchi ICC pl. 1, Thurlow-Vecchi pl. 2, SRCV I 505, 13.908g - 65.836g, no tags or flips, actual pieces in the photograph, as-is, no returns; $500.00 (€410.00)
 


Eion, Macedon, c. 480 - 470 B.C.

|Other| |Macedonia|, |Eion,| |Macedon,| |c.| |480| |-| |470| |B.C.||hemiobol|
Athens unsuccessfully attempted to capture Eion during the Ionian Revolt in 497 B.C. The revolt ended with Persia re-establishing control in Thrace. A Persian fortress and food storage for the Persian army was built at Eion, probably in 492 B.C. Xerxes recalled most of the Persian troops from the area in the winter of 480/479 B.C. In 475 B.C., Eion was besieged and captured by the Delian League's Athenian general Cimon. Refusing Cimon's offer of an honorable withdrawal, the Persian commander Boges destroyed the treasure, killed his family, and committed suicide as the food ran out. Cimon turned the course of the Strymon River so that it flowed against the city walls, dissolving the mud brick fortifications. The inhabitants were enslaved. The capture of Eion was the beginning of a military campaign intended to clear the Aegean Sea of Persian fleets and pirates in order to facilitate Athenian access to the Hellespont. The Athenian colony Amphipolis was founded in 437 B.C. three miles up the Strymon River. After that, Eion served as the harbor of Amphipolis.
GA96088. Silver hemiobol, cf. HGC 3.1 552 (obol, one pellet); Svoronos HPM p. 88, 9 (same); AMNG III/2, p. 140, 30 (same); BMC Macedonia -; SNG Cop -; SNG ANS -; Rosen -, VF, some etching of surfaces, weight 0.344 g, maximum diameter 7.9 mm, Eion (near Amfipoli, Greece) mint, c. 480 - 470 B.C.; obverse two geese standing breast to breast, heads turned back, four globules in a diamond patter between them; reverse quadripartite incuse square; missing from the major references and collections but other specimens known from auctions; extremely rare; $200.00 (€164.00)
 


Celtic, Ring Money, Lot of 27 Small Rings, c. 800 - 100 B.C.

|Ring| |Money|, |Celtic,| |Ring| |Money,| |Lot| |of| |27| |Small| |Rings,| |c.| |800| |-| |100| |B.C.||Ring| |Money|
Ring money of bronze, of silver, and of gold was used by the Celts in trade from Ireland to the Danube region. The dating of Celtic ring money is uncertain. Some authorities date the use of ring money from as early as 800 B.C. and it may have been used as late as 100 B.C. Some believe the bronze rings are actually just strap fittings, not a trade currency. Bronze rings are, however, sometimes found in quite large hoards and, in Spain, they are sometimes found with silver bar and disk ingots, and with 2nd century B.C. denarii of the Roman Republic. Undoubtedly they were used as fittings but they were also undoubtedly used as a store of wealth and for trade.
LT96278. Bronze Ring Money, 27 plain small rings, cf. Victoor I - 1b, Alvarez-Burgos P15; 19.3 - 28.0mm diameter, the actual rings in the photograph, lot of 27; $200.00 (€164.00)
 


Iberian Celts, Hacksilver, c. 300 - 150 B.C.

|Hacksilver|, |Iberian| |Celts,| |Hacksilver,| |c.| |300| |-| |150| |B.C.||fragment|
Hacksilver or hacksilber, are fragments of cut and bent silver items treated as bullion, either for ease of carrying before melting down for re-use, or simply used as currency by weight. It was common in trade until the first century B.C. and again in the middle ages with the Vikings.
CE96111. Hacksilver fragment, cf. Kim and Kroll 59, Van Alfen Hacksilber 53 ff.; 20.883g, 21.1mm long; perhaps cut from a disk ingot, $190.00 (€155.80)
 


Iberian Celts, Hacksilver, c. 300 - 150 B.C.

|Hacksilver|, |Iberian| |Celts,| |Hacksilver,| |c.| |300| |-| |150| |B.C.||fragment|
Hacksilver or hacksilber, are fragments of cut and bent silver items treated as bullion, either for ease of carrying before melting down for re-use, or simply used as currency by weight. It was common in trade until the first century B.C. and again in the middle ages with the Vikings.
CE95745. Hacksilver fragment, cf. Garcia-Bellido 393, Kim and Kroll 66; Van Alfen Hacksilber 85, cut from a bar or disc ingot; 11.75g, 24.1mm long, weight 11.752 g, maximum diameter 24.1 mm, $130.00 (€106.60)
 


Iberian Celts, Hacksilver, c. 300 - 150 B.C.

|Hacksilver|, |Iberian| |Celts,| |Hacksilver,| |c.| |300| |-| |150| |B.C.||fragment|
Hacksilver or hacksilber, is ancient silver disks, bars, rods, foil, and broken and cut fragments of those forms and also of coins, jewelry or other silver items used as a medium of exchange by weight. It was common in trade beginning at the end of the Iron Age, c. 1200 B.C. in the Levant, and lasted until the first century B.C., were it was used by the Celts and other tribal people in Hispania and Gaul. It was used again in the Middle Ages by the Vikings.
CE97576. Hacksilver fragment, cf. Kim and Kroll 55; Garcia-Bellido 393, fragment broken and cut from a bar or disk ingot, 9.199g, 21.2mm long, $110.00 (€90.20)
 




  



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REFERENCES|

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