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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Greek Coins| ▸ |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."


Western Anatolia, c. 620 - 600 B.C., Plain Globular Type

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Certificate of Authenticity issued by David R. Sear.

Unpublished! The majority of the earliest electrum issues were struck on the lighter Milesian weight standard, with hectes weighing approximately 2.35 grams. This example, however is on the heavier Phocaic standard that was used at mints such as Cyzicus, Mysia and Phocaea, Ionia.
SH85577. Electrum hekte, Phokaic standard 1/6 stater; unpublished, EF, flan cracks, weight 2.721 g, maximum diameter 8.96 mm, uncertain western Anatolia mint, c. 620 - 600 B.C.; obverse plain globular surface; reverse one small incuse square punch; extremely rare; $2300.00 (€2024.00)
 


Kyzikos, Mysia, c. 500 - 450 B.C.

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Cyzicus was one of the great cities of the ancient world. It was said to have been founded by Pelasgians from Thessaly, according to tradition at the coming of the Argonauts; later, allegedly in 756 B.C., it received many colonists from Miletus. Owing to its advantageous position it speedily acquired commercial importance, and the gold staters of Cyzicus were a staple currency in the ancient world till they were superseded by those of Philip of Macedon. The site of Cyzicus, located on the Erdek and Bandirma roads, is protected by Turkey's Ministry of Culture.
SL89446. Electrum hekte, SNG BnF 241; SNGvA 1180; BMC Mysia p. 32, 98; Von Fritze I 102; Rosen 482; de Luynes pl. XCII 2460; SNG Cop -, NGC XF, strike 3/5, surface 3/5 (2490378-004), weight 2.674 g, maximum diameter 11.4 mm, Kyzikos (Kapu Dagh, Turkey) mint, c. 500 - 450 B.C.; obverse satyr left, tunny fish vertical with head down to left; reverse quadripartite incuse square; extremely rare; $1000.00 (€880.00)
 


Persian Empire, Dynasts of Lycia, Uncertain Dynast, c. 520 - 460 B.C.

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Minted in Lycia, Anatolia while under Persian control, prior to Alexander the Great's conquest. Click here to see a map of the Persian Empire about 500 B.C.
GS92921. Silver stater, Müseler I1 - I2, SNGvA 4041, Babelon Traité II/1 998, SNG Cop. Suppl. 366, gVF, toned, tight flan cutting off nose, light porosity/etching, weight 9.156 g, maximum diameter 17.7 mm, uncertain mint, obverse head of lion right, roaring with jaws open; reverse Incuse square divided into 12 fields in a star-like shape; rare; $650.00 (€572.00)
 


Cyprus, Early 5th Century B.C.

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The obverse die was used to strike three different issues, with different reverses. This type is from the third issue, when the obverse die was heavily worn and the ankh was engraved over the ram. The published specimens have no symbol or monogram on the reverse. There are other examples of this variant on Coin Archives.
GS89724. Silver stater, Apparently unpublished variant; cf. Zapiti-Michaelidou pl. VIII, 2; Asyut pl. XXXII, N; Troxell-Waggoner p. 35, 8-9; Tziambazis -; Traité -; BMC -, F/VF, struck with a worn obverse die, weight 10.805 g, maximum diameter 20.2 mm, die axis 90o, uncertain Cypriot mint, early 5th century B.C.; obverse ram walking left, ankh symbol superimposed on and above the ram's side and back (the ankh symbol was recut on a heavily worn die); reverse laurel branch with two leaves and three fruits, ankh symbol on left, monogram lower right, all in dotted square within incuse square; rare; $500.00 (€440.00)
 


Cyprus, Early 5th Century B.C.

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The obverse die was used to strike three different issues, with different reverses. This type is from the third issue, when the obverse die was heavily worn and the ankh was engraved over the ram. The published specimens have no symbol or monogram on the reverse. There are other examples of this variant on Coin Archives.
GS87794. Silver stater, Apparently unpublished variant; cf. Zapiti-Michaelidou pl. VIII, 2; Asyut pl. XXXII, N; Troxell-Waggoner p. 35, 8-9; Tziambazis -; Traité -; BMC -, aVF/VF, struck with the worn obverse die (as are all coins from this issue), slightly off center, light bumps and marks, weight 10.662 g, maximum diameter 18.6 mm, die axis 270o, uncertain Cypriot mint, early 5th century B.C.; obverse ram walking left, ankh symbol superimposed on and above the ram's side and back (the ankh symbol was recut on a heavily worn die); reverse laurel branch with two leaves and three fruits, monogram lower left, all in dotted square within incuse square; rare; $480.00 (€422.40)
 


Thasos, Thrace, c. 500 - 480 B.C.

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Nymphs are nature spirits who appear as beautiful, young nubile maidens. They dwell in mountains, valleys and groves, by springs and rivers, and also in trees and cool grottoes. Nymphs love to dance and sing and are the frequent target of satyrs. Satyrs are male companions of Pan and Dionysus with goat-like features, including a goat-tail, goat-like ears, and sometimes a goat-like phallus. As Dionysiac creatures, Satyrs are lovers of wine and women and ready for every physical pleasure. They are obsessed with nymphs.
SH91802. Silver stater, Le Rider Thasiennes 2; SNG Cop 1008; BMC Thrace p. 216, 2; McClean 4195; Svoronos HPM pl. X, 7; Dewing 1312; HGC 6 331, Choice F, very well centered, toned, typical flat strike, scratches, weight 9.155 g, maximum diameter 22.6 mm, Thasos mint, c. 500 - 480 B.C.; obverse nude ithyphallic satyr kneeling-running right, carrying in his arms a struggling nymph, raising her right hand in protest, both with long strait hair indicated with dots, she wears a long chiton, her arm fingers and thumb forming a Y shape; reverse quadripartite incuse square; $480.00 (€422.40)
 


Lydian Kingdom, Alyattes, c. 610 - 560 B.C.

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Alyattes (Lydian: Walwates?) reigned c. 610 - 560 B.C. He was succeeded by his son Croesus. A battle between his forces and those of Cyaxares, king of Media, was interrupted by the solar eclipse of 28 May 584 B.C. After this, a truce was agreed and Alyattes married his daughter Aryenis to Astyages, the son of Cyaxares. The alliance preserved Lydia for another generation, during which it enjoyed its most brilliant period. Alyattes continued to wage a war against Miletos for many years but eventually he heeded the Delphic Oracle and rebuilt a temple, dedicated to Athena, which his soldiers had destroyed. He then made peace with Miletos.
SH93570. Electrum hekte, 1/6 stater; cf. Weidauer Group XVII, F, obverse porous, low weight, struck with a very worn obverse die, weight 1.907 g, maximum diameter 9.6 mm, Sardes (Sart, Turkey) mint, c. 610 - 560 B.C.; obverse head of lion left, roaring, jaws open, solar disk with four rays on forehead, [confronting another lion head facing right, WALWET in retrograde Lydian script] (as usual for the denomination only one of the lion heads is on the flan); reverse double incuse square punch; ex Roma e-sale 58 (20 Jun 2019), lot 280; ex private Swiss collection; $450.00 (€396.00)
 


Kroton, Bruttium, Italy, 530 - 500 B.C.

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According to Herodotus (3.131), the physicians of Kroton were considered the foremost among the Greeks, and among them Democedes, son of Calliphon, was the most prominent in the 6th century B.C. Accordingly, he traveled around Greece and ended up working in the court of Polycrates, tyrant of Samos. After the tyrant was murdered, Democedes was captured by the Persians and brought to King Darius, curing him of a dislocated ankle. Democedes' fame was, according to Herodotus, the basis for the prestige of Kroton's physicians.
GS90988. Silver stater, SNG ANS 248; SNG Ashmolean 1467; SNG Lloyd 596; HN Italy 2081; BMC Italy p. 343, 9; SNG Cop -, VF, spread fabric, heavy natural patina, edge chip, weight 7.646 g, maximum diameter 27.1 mm, die axis 0o, Kroton (Crotone, Calbria, Italy) mint, 530 - 500 B.C.; obverse tripod lebes with three lion's feet and three handles, koppaPO upward on left, marsh bird (crane or heron) standing left on right; reverse incuse tripod lebes, koppaPO upward on left, marsh bird (crane or heron) standing left on right; ex David Mitten Collection, ex Antioch Associates (Lindgren); $360.00 (€316.80)
 


Roman Republic, Fragment of an Aes Formatum Brick, 4th Century B.C.

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In Coins of the Roman Republic in The British Museum, Grueber wrote, "In the find at Vulci, besides the aes rude and the aes signatum there was a number of rough brick-shaped pieces in very poor condition, without any imprint and nothing to indicate their value; their weight varying from an ounce to a pound...These pieces would appear to be intermediate between the as rude and the aes signatum." In Aes Grave, Das Schwergeld Roms und Mittelitaliens, published in 1910, the same year as the British Museum Catalog, Haeberlin differentiated these cast shapes from aes rude and introduced a new term for them, aes formatum.
RR87168. Cast bronze Aes Formatum, Haeberlin p. 4, pl. 4 , 1-3; fragment of a brick shaped aes formatum, 214.5g, 62.1x47.6x15.4mm, broken from the end and includes one corner, VF, very rare; $320.00 (€281.60)
 


Methymna, Lesbos, c. 500 - 460 B.C.

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Methymna, the prosperous second city of Lesbos, was, According to myth, named after a daughter of Lesbos, the patron god of the island, and Macar, the island's first king. Methymna had a long-standing rivalry with Mytilene and sided with Athens during the Mytilenaean revolt in 428 B.C. All the other cities of Lesbos sided with Mytilene. After Athenians put down the revolt, only Methymna was spared from being made a cleruchy. After 427, Methymna and Chios were the only members of the Delian League to remain self-governing and exempt from tribute, indicating a privileged position within the Athenian Empire. Methymna was briefly captured by the Spartans in summer 412, but quickly retaken by the Athenians. When the Spartan Kallikratidas besieged Methymna in 406, the city stayed loyal to its Athenian garrison and held out until it was betrayed by several traitors.
GA89032. Silver hemiobol, HGC 6 893 (R2), Franke Methymna -, SNG Cop -, SNGvA -, SNG Kayhan -, Traité -, Klein -, Rosen -, BMC Troas -, Mitchiner ATAC -, VF, well centered, toned, etched surfaces, weight 0.287 g, maximum diameter 6.9 mm, die axis 180o, Methymna mint, c. 500/480 - 460 B.C.; obverse head of Nymph right, hair bound in sakkos; reverse chicken hen standing right, MAΘ above, square dotted frame, all within incuse square; very rare; $300.00 (€264.00)
 




  



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REFERENCES|

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Catalog current as of Sunday, December 15, 2019.
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The Archaic Origins of Coinage