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Ancient Coins on Modern Coinage

by Federico Morando

Classical coins exercise a strong influence on modern coinage: The Greek and Italian mints host two of the most classical influenced schools of engravers.

The following images represent some coins from the first two issues of the Italian Republic: on the left I put an ancient specimen that could have inspired the modern engraver. (Ancient coins are from FORVM 's catalog, modern coins are from my private collection.)

Corinth, Greece, 405 - 345 B.C.

Italy, 10 Lire, 1948 A.D.

8331. Silver stater, Pegasi I 192, Ravel 715 var, BMC 338 var, VF, 8.44g, 21.1mm, 90o, Corinth mint, 405 - 345 B.C.;
 O: Pegasus with long body and forelegs stretched out, koppa and rose below;
 R: Athena head right in Corinthian helmet, EΛ and archaic statue of Zeus holding staff and tied ribbon behind; scarce variety.

10 Lire 1948, Italma (962/ Aluminum, 135/ Magnesium, 3/ Manganese); Montenegro 2003, EF, 4g, 29,3mm, minted in 14400000 exemplars; .
 O: Pegasus with long body and forelegs stretched out, "REPUBBLICA ITALIANA" below;
 R: "L. - 10", olive branch (see, for instance, the tetradrachm of Athens below) (mintmark and date below).

Metapontion, Lucania, c. 330-300 B.C.

Italy, 2 Lire, 1948 A.D.

1161. Silver stater, variety not listed in references held by FORVM, flat EF, 7.90g, 20.4mm;
 O: head of Demeter right with earring and necklace;
 R: head of grain, META and ant to left, cornucopia, leaf and ΦI magistrate 's symbol) to right.

2 Lire 1948, Italma (962/ Aluminum, 135/ Magnesium, 3/ Manganese); Montenegro 2003, VF, 1,75g, 24,1mm, minted in 7200000 exemplars; .
 O: a farmer at work, "REPUBBLICA ITALIANA" around;
 R: "L. - 2", head of grain (mintmark and date below).

Ephesus, Ionia, 480 - 450 B.C.

Italy, 2 Lire, 1959 A.D.

3368. Silver drachm, S 4360, VF, 3.20g, 12.3mm, 480-450 B.C.;
 O: E - Φ, bee with curved wings, volutes (scroll shaped decorative forms) in upper fields;
 R: quadripartite incuse square.

2 Lire 1959, Italma (962/ Aluminum, 135/ Magnesium, 3/ Manganese); Montenegro 2003, EF, 0,8g, 18,3mm, minted in 2000000 exemplars; .
 O: bee, "REPUBBLICA ITALIANA" around;
 R: "2" olive branch (mintmark and date below).

"Ancient inspired" modern coins are very common and can provide an interesting theme for a "parallel collection" of Greek/Roman and modern/contemporary coins. Italian series offers a lot of interesting items for this purpose: it is possible to find some examples of these issues on many websites (for instance, a site in English is: http://digilander.libero.it/maggioref/indexENG2.html).

But ancient coins are not only a source of inspiration behind the birth of modern coinage: you can also find them, accurately reproduced, as the main subject of contemporary specimens, as in the following cases.

Ordinary Issues (circulating legal tender)


Roman Republic, Denarius, 99-50 B.C.

Italy, 1000 Lire, 1970 A.D.

268. Silver denarius, S 366, RSC Aemilia 10, Syd 926, Craw 415/1, F, 3.60g, 18.7mm;
 O: PAVLLVS LEPIDVS CONCORDIA around, veiled and diademed head of Concordia right, all within circle of dots (partially out of flan);
 R: to right L. Aemilius Paullus, togate, standing left, touching trophy of arms, to left King Perseus of Macedon and his two sons, captive, standing right.

Silver (835/1000) 1000 Lire of 1970 (Centenary of Rome Italian Capitol), Montenegro 2003, Unc., 14.6g, 31.4mm, minted in 3140000 exemplars;
 O: "1870-1970 CONCORDIA" around, veiled and diademed head of Concordia right, all within (incomplete) circle of dots;
 R: Project of Michelangelo for the pavement of Campidoglio; under: ROMA CAPITALE / 1000 / LIRE; to right: R (mintmark of Rome).
 "REPVBBLICA ITALIANA" in relief on border.

(It is possible to find a lot of other links between coins: for instance, the project of Michelangelo for the pavement of Campidoglio is also represented on reverse of the Italian 50 Cent from 2002).


Athens, Old Style Tetradrachm, 449 - 413 B.C.

Greece, 1 Euro, 2002 A.D.

8450. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, S 2526, gVF, 17.11g, 25.0mm, 270o, 449-413 B.C.;
 O: head of Athena right with almond shaped eye, wearing crested helmet ornamented with three olive leaves and floral scroll, wire necklace, round earring, her hair is drawn across the forehead in a parallel curve, dotted neck truncation;
 R: AΘE right, owl standing right, head facing, erect in posture, prong tail, to left olive twig and crescent, all within incuse square.

1 Euro, bimetallic, 7.50g, 23,25mm;
 O: common obverse of the euro issue ("1 EURO", map of European Union, 12 stars and lines to right);
 R: reproduction of the reverse of a tetradrachm (of Athens, V Century B.C.), 12 stars around, date below.

Special or Collectors Issues (not circulating)


The denarius reproduced is quite rare: The original is conserved in Palazzo Massimo and I have never seen it (or an image of it). It is possible to find similar coins on the Net at the following URLs:


Index of Images: Barbara F. McManus
Image Link

(If you have a non copyrighted image, please let me know)

Italy, 2000 Lire, 1999 A.D.

Silver (835/1000) 2000 Lire of 1999 (Roman National Museum), Montenegro 2003, Unc., 16g, 31.4mm;

Obviously, this short article is not aimed to be comprehensive: I just pointed out three examples of modern coins that exactly reproduce ancient designs (the advent of Euro gave us the Greek "1 Euro" coin, and I remembered the old "1000 Lire" of the Italian Republic: after a bit of research I also found the "2000 Lire" coin). I hope that readers can send me some other example to complete and update this article (please write an e-mail to federico.muras@tiscali.it, if possible with an image of the modern and/or ancient coin, not protected by third parties copyright).

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