AE 28 of Castulo, Spain

What is a Greek coin? That is a question not as simple as it would seem. The influence of ancient Greek civilization extended far beyond the boundaries of modern Greece. Greek colonies covered much of the Mediterranean. The idea of coinage spread even further to people not of Greek origin. Trade with the Greeks caused some of these outlying issues to bear Greek legends. By the second century BC, much of Spain was under the control of the Romans. Several cities issued coins of distinctly local style bearing legends in the Iberian alphabet. Collectors of 'Greek' coins often include these issues on the edges of the Greek world even though they were properly more Iberian or Roman. For most collectors, the term 'Greek' can be applied to almost any non-Roman coin from the ancient Mediterranean.

Castulo, Spain - AE 28 - 2nd Century BC?
Male head right, hand before (weak here) / Helmeted sphinx, star before
Iberian legend in exergue off flan on this specimen

This week's Featured coin illustrates enough points of interest that I hope you will overlook the fact that I don't know much to tell you about the issue. This coin is listed in Sear, Greek Imperial Coins and their Values (SGI 15) as depicting Caesar Augustus but more recent offerings in auction catalogs date the coin to a century earlier and assign no name to the male head. Scholars of ancient coins regularly update the details of chronology and attribution. New evidence or rethinking of old data frequently requires the collector to revise the labels place on coins. Flans for this issue were cast with an extreme taper on one side (not always the reverse as on this coin) which is often considerably more flattened out than on this lightly struck specimen. Apparently the act of striking was counted upon to spread the cone and fill the die. As a result the coins are often weakly struck on the edges making the hand in front of the face and the reverse legend weaker than the central devices. Flaws of the casting process are not always completely erased by the striking process. Such details of the production process vary from issue to issue, town to town. What can be expected for one issue would be wholly out of line for another. An understanding of these details can help the collector identify suspicious coins that do not fit the idiom expected for that issue.

Back to Main page

(c) 1997 Doug Smith