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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Themes & Provenance| ▸ |Numismatics| ▸ |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Unpublished!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 Electrum hekte, Phokaic standard 1/6 stater; unpublished, EF, flan cracks, weight 2.721 g, maximum diameter 8.96 mm, uncertain western Anatolia mint, c. 620 - 600 B.C.; obverse plain globular surface; reverse one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)
 


Athens, Attica, Greece, c. 454 - 404 B.C., Old Style Tetradrachm

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The old-style tetradrachm of Athens is famous for its almond shaped eye, archaic smile, and charming owl reverse. Around 480 B.C. a wreath of olive leaves and a decorative scroll were added to Athena's helmet. On the reverse, a crescent moon was added.

During the period 449 - 413 B.C. huge quantities of tetradrachms were minted to finance grandiose building projects such as the Parthenon and to cover the costs of the Peloponnesian War.
SH94261. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG München 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, Choice VF, near full crest, well centered, high relief as usual for the type, flow lines, light marks, weight 17.172 g, maximum diameter 24.5 mm, die axis 330o, Athens mint, c. 454 - 404 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, almond shaped eye, crested helmet with olive leaves and floral scroll, wire necklace, round earring, hair in parallel curves; reverse owl standing right, head facing, erect in posture, olive sprig and crescent left, AΘE downward on right, all within incuse square; ex Numismatik Naumann auction 83 (1 Sep 2019), lot 157; $1200.00 (€1056.00)
 


Athens, Attica, Greece, c. 454 - 404 B.C., Old Style Tetradrachm

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The old-style tetradrachm of Athens is famous for its almond shaped eye, archaic smile, and charming owl reverse. Around 480 B.C. a wreath of olive leaves and a decorative scroll were added to Athena's helmet. On the reverse, a crescent moon was added.

During the period 449 - 413 B.C. huge quantities of tetradrachms were minted to finance grandiose building projects such as the Parthenon and to cover the costs of the Peloponnesian War.
SH94262. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG München 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, Choice gVF, well centered most of crest on flan, beautiful owl, flow lines, high relief as usual for the type, edge cracks, weight 17.144 g, maximum diameter 25.0 mm, die axis 45o, Athens mint, c. 454 - 404 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, almond shaped eye, crested helmet with olive leaves and floral scroll, wire necklace, round earring, hair in parallel curves; reverse owl standing right, head facing, erect in posture, olive sprig and crescent left, AΘE downward on right, all within incuse square; ex Numismatik Naumann auction 83 (1 Sep 2019), lot 152; $1200.00 (€1056.00)
 


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; $900.00 (€792.00)
 


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)
 


Lapethos, Cyprus, King Sidqmelek, c. 449 - 420 B.C.

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Excavation finds date Lapithos to as early as 3000 B.C. In the 4th century B.C., Lapithos was one of the nine kingdoms of Cyprus. During the Persian rule, Lapithos was settled by Phoenicians. After Peisistratos, king of Lapithos, along with Nicocreon of Salamis, and Stasanor of Curion helped Alexander the Great capture Tyre, Alexander declared Cyprus free. The last king of Lapethos, Praxippos, was subdued by Ptolemy I in 312 B.C. Under Roman rule, Lapethos had more than 10,000 inhabitants, produced copper, earthenware and produce, and was a port and a shipyard. Lapethos was given the name Lambousa ("shining") perhaps because of its beauty or perhaps because of its lighthouse. The apostles Paul, Barnabas, and Mark passed by Lapethos coming from Tarsus. According to Barnabas, during his second tour with Mark, they stayed outside the walls because they were denied access to the city. In late antiquity, Lapethos enjoyed great prosperity but was heavily damaged by Arab incursions. The population often had to flee and take refuge in the interior. After the Byzantine recovery of Cyprus from the Arabs in 965, Lapithos's refugees returned to rebuild, but chose to stay away from the sea, relocating it at the foot of mountain Pentadactylos.
SL94003. Silver stater, BMC Cyprus p. 30 f., 7-9, pl. VI, 6-8; Traité II p. 823, 1361-1363 and pl. CXXXVI; Bank of Cyprus p. 94 & pl. VII, 2; Tziambazis 48, NGC VF (4680486-033), maximum diameter 23 mm, die axis 135o, Lapethos (Lambousa, Cyprus) mint, c. 435 B.C.; obverse Phoenician legend: King of Lapethos, head of Athena left, wearing a crested Corinthian helmet; reverse Phoenician legend: of Sidqmelek, head of Athena facing, wearing a double-crested helmet with bull’s horn and ears, all in a square dot border within an incuse square; ex Heritage Auction 231944 (31 Oct 2019), lot 65123; very rare; $490.00 (€431.20)
 


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; $430.00 (€378.40)
 


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; $400.00 (€352.00)
 


Cilicia (Uncertain City, possibly Tarsos), 4th Century B.C.

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SNG Levante describes the obverse type as a Pegasos forepart, however, both their coin and ours clearly depict a griffin.
GS92951. Silver obol, SNG Levante 208 corr. (Pegasos vice Griffin in error), SNG BnF -, aVF, toned, light deposits, tight flan, worn dies, edge split, weight 0.680 g, maximum diameter 8.3 mm, die axis 90o, 4th century B.C.; obverse forepart of griffin left; reverse owl standing left, head facing, crescent and olive spray behind; only one sales of this type recorded on Coin Archives in the last two decades - Nomos AG, obolos 5 (26 Jun 2016), lot 437 (similar condition, realized 550 CHF plus 18.5% fees = $660); extremely rare; $400.00 (€352.00)
 




  



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REFERENCES|

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Catalog current as of Wednesday, January 22, 2020.
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Archaic Origins