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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; $1600.00 SALE PRICE $1440.00


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







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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 Tuesday, May 30, 2023.
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