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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Themes & Provenance| ▸ |Denominations| ▸ |Tesserae||View Options:  |  |  | 

Tesserae and Lead Coins

Tesserae (singular: tessera) are ancient tokens. Most were made from lead, but other materials including bronze, bone, ivory, clay, glass and wood were also used. They were used as tickets for theaters, gladiator fights, ferry passage and even brothels. Tesserae liberalitatis were distributed as gifts by the Roman emperor or local government, often to the poor, and used as vouchers to exchange for grain, oil, or other goods. Some ancient lead "tokens" may have been used as small change coinage.

Byzantine Empire, Levante or Alexandria, c. 5th - 6th Century A.D., Jewish Menorah Lead Token

|Holy| |Land| |Antiquities|, |Byzantine| |Empire,| |Levante| |or| |Alexandria,| |c.| |5th| |-| |6th| |Century| |A.D.,| |Jewish| |Menorah| |Lead| |Token||token|
The purpose of Byzantine era lead tokens is unknown. Many appear closely related to seals differing only by the absence of a cord or channel for attachment to a container or document. Many late Roman and early Byzantine seals have a figural type on one side and a legend in two lines in Latin or Greek on the other side. Seals with a menorah are known, usually with a blank globular reverse, but some also have a name on the other side.
JD98657. Lead token, personal token of Rodanos(?); Roma e-sale 53 (7 Feb 2019), lot 504 (same dies), VF, highlighting earthen deposit desert patina, weight 3.077 g, maximum diameter 14.1 mm, die axis 180o, c. 5th - 6th century A.D.; obverse Menorah of seven branches, flanked by lulav on left and etrog on right; reverse POΔA/NOY in two lines across field, palm frond above; ex CNG e-auction 435 (2 Jan 2019), lot 401; extremely rare; $1440.00 SALE PRICE $1296.00


Judean Kingdom, Alexander Jannaeus (Yehonatan), 104 - 76 B.C., Plate Coin

|Alexander| |Jannaeus|, |Judean| |Kingdom,| |Alexander| |Jannaeus| |(Yehonatan),| |104| |-| |76| |B.C.,| |Plate| |Coin||tessera|
Lead tesserae (tokens) were likely issued by the monarch to the poor to be redeemed for food or other commodities. Meshorer reports the lead tesserae of Alexander Jannaeus are found almost exclusively in Transjordan. This is the plate coin in Meshorer's Jewish Coins of the Second Temple Period (Tel-Aviv, 1967), at which time the coin was in the Grosswirth Collection.
JD111754. Lead tessera, Meshorer 2nd Temple pl. II, 7 (this coin), Hendin 6192 (S), Meshorer TJC M, Meshorer AJC D, HGC 10 645, gF, green-gray surfaces, earthen deposits, cleaning scratches, weight 4.019 g, maximum diameter 18.5 mm, Transjordan mint, 95 - 76 B.C.; obverse Greek legend: BAΣIΛEΩΣ AΛEΞANΔPOY (of King Alexander), anchor (upside-down as if hanging on the side of a boat), inside circle; reverse traces of Aramaic inscription, King Alexander, in three lines, within a border of dots; ex CNG e-auction 510 (23 Feb 2022), lot 283; ex Dr. Jay M. Galst Collection; Herb Kreindler (May 1985); ex E. Grosswirth Collection ; very scarce; $160.00 SALE PRICE $144.00


Judean Kingdom, Alexander Jannaeus (Yehonatan), 104 - 76 B.C.

|Alexander| |Jannaeus|, |Judean| |Kingdom,| |Alexander| |Jannaeus| |(Yehonatan),| |104| |-| |76| |B.C.||tessera|
Lead tesserae (tokens) were issued by the monarch to the poor to be redeemed for food and other commodities. Meshorer reports the lead tesserae of Alexander Jannaeus are found almost exclusively in Transjordan
JD110536. Lead tessera, Hendin 6192 (S), Meshorer TJC M, Meshorer AJC D, HGC 10 645, aF, heavy example, weight 5.154 g, maximum diameter 18.0 mm, Transjordan mint, 95 - 76 B.C.; obverse Aramaic inscription: King Alexander Year 25, anchor (upside-down as if hanging on the side of a boat) inside circle; reverse traces of Aramaic inscription, King Alexander, with a border of dots; very scarce; $80.00 SALE PRICE $72.00


Roman Egypt, Arsinoiton polis (Arsinoite Nome), Upper Egypt, 1st - 3rd Century A.D.

|Tesserae|, |Roman| |Egypt,| |Arsinoiton| |polis| |(Arsinoite| |Nome),| |Upper| |Egypt,| |1st| |-| |3rd| |Century| |A.D.||tessera|
The Ptolemies renamed Atef-Pehu (the Krocodilopolitan nome) to Arsinoe and the capital city Krokodopolis (the City of Crocodiles) to Ptolemais Euergetis. In Roman times the nome was the Arsinoiton polis and Krokodopolis was called Arsinoe.
RX41298. Lead tessera, Geissen 3495; Dattari 6423; Emmett 4366; Milne -, Fair, weight 4.894 g, maximum diameter 23.9 mm, Arsinoe (Krokodopolis) mint, 1st - 3rd century A.D.; obverse bust of Pharaoh right wearing wig, beard and uraeus (cobra) crown, reed before; reverse APCINOΕITWN Φ ΠOΛΕWC (retrograde), crocodile right on a pedestal, solar disk above, all within laurel wreath tied at the bottom, legend around within dot border; extremely rare; SOLD


Greek, Lead Tessera or Weight (1.309g), c. 500 - 300 B.C.(?)

|Tesserae|, |Greek,| |Lead| |Tessera| |or| |Weight| |(1.309g),| |c.| |500| |-| |300| |B.C.(?)||tessera|
This lead piece is a mystery. It may be a tessera or it may be a coin weight. Where and when it was made are uncertain. Facing head of Silenos types are most commonly found on coins from Sicily, Macedonia, Lesbos, and Mysia. The scallop shell is a common type for Italy and Sicily, but was used as a control symbol across the Greek world. If it is a weight, the weight is appropriate for an electrum hemihekte, a type which was struck at Kyzikos with a facing head of Silenos.
GB90212. Lead tessera, cf. Scholz Tesserae 597 - 598 (Silenos obverse, blank reverse); roughly rectangular shape, 13.3 x 8.6 mm, 1.309 g, VF, a very attractive and unusual tiny artifact, c. 500 - 300 B.C.(?); obverse head of Silenos facing; reverse incuse scallop shell; ex CNG auction 324, part of lot 670; SOLD


Roman, Lead Votive or Tessera, c. 30 B.C. - 285 A.D.

|Tesserae|, |Roman,| |Lead| |Votive| |or| |Tessera,| |c.| |30| |B.C.| |-| |285| |A.D.||tessera|
The Greeks and Romans used the name "Ethiopian" for all Africans living south of the Sahara. We are uncertain of the specific origin, date, and purpose or use for this piece. It is an attractive and interesting mystery.
AR98632. Lead tessera, VF, cast, very high sculptural relief, typical lead patina, irregular shape, old cuts and marks, weight 15.634 g, maximum diameter 32.0 mm, die axis 0o, obverse facing head of a bald Ethiopian; reverse flat (probably cast in an open mold); SOLD


Central Italy, c. 2nd Century B.C.

|211-100| |B.C.|, |Central| |Italy,| |c.| |2nd| |Century| |B.C.||tessera|
Lindgren plate coin. The obverse copies a sculptural theme seen on coins, vases and other artwork. Iphicles was the mortal, anxious and timid twin half-brother of Hercules. Hercules protected him from serpents sent by Hera.
SH24952. Bronze tessera, Lindgren III 1646 (this coin, listed as unidentified), F, weight 3.982 g, maximum diameter 18.9 mm, die axis 180o, obverse the two infants Herakles and Iphicles, attacked by the serpents sent by Hera; reverse IC O S, Hercules striking Hydra with club; SOLD


Roman Egypt, Memphis Nome, 1st - 3rd Century A.D.

|Roman| |Egypt|, |Roman| |Egypt,| |Memphis| |Nome,| |1st| |-| |3rd| |Century| |A.D.||tessera|
RX38674. Lead tessera, Geissen 3501 (same dies); Dattari 6416 ff.; Milne 5279 var.; Emmett 4594 (R5) var., VF, weight 5.767 g, maximum diameter 24.6 mm, die axis 0o, Memphis mint, obverse Nilus seated left on hippopotamus right, himation around legs, reed in right, cornucopia in left; Euthenia stands right before him, wearing chiton and billowing peplos, crowning him with wreath; reverse MΕMΦIC, Isis-Hekate standing facing, triple face crowned with disk and horns, wearing long chiton and peplos, uraeus in right, left arm around neck of Apis bull standing left with disk between horns; small figure behind her raising hands; rare; SOLD


Roman Egypt, Antinoopolites Nome?, Portrait of Antinous, c. 130 - 153 A.D.?

|Roman| |Tesserae|, |Roman| |Egypt,| |Antinoopolites| |Nome?,| |Portrait| |of| |Antinous,| |c.| |130| |-| |153| |A.D.?||tessera|
On 30 October 130 A.D., Hadrian founded the city of Antinoopolis on the very bank of the Nile river where Antinous drowned. It was the capital of a new nome, Antinoopolites.
RX41306. Lead tessera, Dattari 6536, Geissen 3559 var. (11.23g), Emmett 4397 (R4), F, weight 3.809 g, maximum diameter 20.1 mm, die axis 75o, obverse draped bust of Antinous right, wearing hem-hem crown of Harpocrates, crescent before; reverse Serapis standing left, kalathos on head, right hand raised, long scepter in left; rare; SOLD


Roman Egypt, Antinoopolites Nome, Portrait of Antinous, c. 130 - 153 A.D.

|Roman| |Tesserae|, |Roman| |Egypt,| |Antinoopolites| |Nome,| |Portrait| |of| |Antinous,| |c.| |130| |-| |153| |A.D.||tessera|
On 30 October 130 A.D., Hadrian founded the city of Antinoopolis on the very bank of the Nile river where Antinous drowned. It was the capital of a new nome, Antinoopolites. Perhaps the date is from the founding of Antinoopolis.
RX39457. Lead tessera, Geissen 3567; Emmett 4291.2 (R4?); Dattari-Savio -; Milne -, F, weight 5.205 g, maximum diameter 23.0 mm, die axis 0o, Antinoopolis mint, c. 130 - 153 A.D.; obverse draped bust of Antinous (as Hermes) right, wearing hem-hem crown of Harpocrates, crescent before, ΘW upward behind; reverse Nike advancing left, wearing chiton, raising wreath extended in right, palm frond over shoulder in left hand, L - B (year 2 of uncertain era) across field; rare; SOLD







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REFERENCES

Burnett, A., M. Amandry & P. Ripolls. Roman Provincial Coinage I: From the death of Caesar to the death of Vitellius (44 BC-AD 69). (London, 1992, and supplement).
Buttrey, T. "The Spintriae as a Historical Source" in NC 1973.
de Boccard, E. Les tesseres et les Monnaies de Palmyre. (Paris, 1962).
Cohen, H. Description historique des monnaies frappes sous l'Empire Romain, Vol. 8: Nepotian to Romulus Augustus, plus tesserae & cotorniates. (Paris, 1888).
Dattari, G. Numi Augg. Alexandrini. (Cairo, 1901).
Emmett, K. Alexandrian Coins. (Lodi, WI, 2001).
Farhi, H. "Note on Two Types of Byzantine Lead Currency" in INR 8 (2013).
Geissen, A. Katalog alexandrinischer Kaisermnzen, Kln|, Band 4: Claudius Gothicus - Bleimnzen. (Cologne, 1974-1983), pp. 178 - 213.
Hamburger, H. "Minute coins from Caesarea" in ATIQOT - Journal of The Israel Dept. of Antiquities, Volume I. (Jerusalem, 1955) pp. 115-138.
Hamburger, A. "Surface Finds from Caesarea Maritima - Tesserae" in Qedem 21 (Jerusalem, 1986), pp. 187 - 204.
Hendin, D. Guide to Biblical Coins. (Amphora, 2010).
Hoover, O. "A Reassessment of Nabataean Lead Coinage in Light of New Discoveries" in NC 2006.
Milne, J. A Catalogue of the Alexandrian Coins in the Ashmolean Museum. (Oxford, 1933), pp. 125 - 130.
Milne, J. "The leaden token-coinage of Egypt under the Romans" in NC 1908, pp. 287-310, pl. XXII.
Rostowtzew, M. Tesserarum Urbis Romae et Suburbi Plumbearum Sylloge. (St. Petersburg, 1903).
Rostowtzew, M. Tesserarum Urbis Romae et Suburbi Plumbearum Sylloge, Supplementum I. (St. Petersburg, 1905).
Scholz, J. "Rmische Blei Tesserae" in Numismatische Zeitschrift bd. 25 (1893).

Catalog current as of Friday, September 29, 2023.
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