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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Greek Coins ▸ Archaic OriginsView 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."


Lydian Kingdom, Uncertain King Before Kroisos, c. 625-546 B.C.

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The knob on the lion's snout is also described as a "wart," and as the radiant Sun.
SH85431. Electrum trite, Weidauer Series XVI 86, SNGvA 2869, SNG Kayhan 1013, Rosen 655, Boston MFA 1763, gVF, banker's marks on the sides, weight 4.715 g, maximum diameter 11.9 mm, Sardes (Sart, Turkey) mint, c. 625 - 546 B.C; obverse Head of roaring lion right, with knob and rays atop snout; reverse two incuse squares; $3200.00 (€2848.00)
 


Lydian Kingdom, Uncertain King Before Kroisos, c. 625-546 B.C.

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The knob on the lion's snout is also described as a "wart," and as the radiant Sun.
SH85432. Electrum trite, Weidauer Series XVI 86, SNGvA 2869, SNG Kayhan 1013, Rosen 655, Boston MFA 1763, VF, bumps and marks, earthen deposits, weight 4.709 g, maximum diameter 12.8 mm, Sardes (Sart, Turkey) mint, c. 625 - 546 B.C; obverse Head of roaring lion right, with knob rays atop snout; reverse two incuse squares; $2400.00 (€2136.00)
 


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commercial importance, and the gold staters of Cyzicus were a staple currency in the ancient world till they were superseded by those of Philip of Macedon.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.
SH84459. 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 -, gVF, well centered and struck on a tight flan, weight 2.628 g, maximum diameter 10.8 mm, Kyzikos (Kapu Dagh, Turkey) mint, c. 500 - 450 B.C.; obverse forepart of a winged deer left, tunny fish diagonal with head down behind; reverse quadripartite incuse square; rare; $2000.00 (€1780.00)
 


Lydian Kingdom, Uncertain King Before Kroisos, c. 625-546 B.C.

Click for a larger photo
The knob on the lion's snout is also described as a "wart," and as the radiant Sun.
SH85433. Electrum trite, Weidauer Series XVI 86, SNGvA 2869, SNG Kayhan 1013, Rosen 655, Boston MFA 1763, VF, banker's mark, some light scratches, weight 4.683 g, maximum diameter 12.5 mm, Sardes (Sart, Turkey) mint, c. 625 - 546 B.C; obverse Head of roaring lion right, with knob and rays atop snout; reverse two incuse squares; $2000.00 (€1780.00)
 


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

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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.
SL85479. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG Munchen 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, Dewing 1611, SGCV I 2526, NGC Ch AU, strike 5/5, surface 4/5 (4377469-075), weight 17.20 g, maximum diameter c. 24 mm, die axis 270o, 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 AΘE right, owl standing right, head facing, erect in posture, olive sprig and crescent left, all within incuse square; ex Heritage auction 231723, lot 62016; $2000.00 (€1780.00)
 


Ionia, c. 600 - 550 B.C.

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As reported by B.V. Head in Chapter 5 of Excavations at Ephesus: The Archaic Artemisia, a coin of this type was one of five coins found in excavations underneath the foundations of the southern wall of the B cella of the Artemisia at Ephesus. The other four coins were lion head and lion paw types. Head wrote these coins must have been deposited during construction of the First Temple (A). Weidauer 145 is the coin found at the Artemisia (= Head Artemisia 79), now at the Arkeoloji Müzesi, Istanbul. The Weidauer coins appear to be struck with the same obverse die.
SH84450. Electrum 1/24 stater, Milesian standard; Weidauer 145 - 146; Head Artemisia p. 86 and pl. 2, 79; cf. SNGvA 1781 (different style); Rosen 287 (same); SNG Kayhan 717 (same), gVF, centered, edge cracks, some die rust (also found on other examples of this type), weight 0.579 g, maximum diameter 6.2 mm, uncertain Ionian mint, c. 600 - 550 B.C.; obverse bridled head and neck of Pegasos left, with top edge of wing visible; reverse four raised squares in a cross pattern within incuse square punch; very rare; $1450.00 (€1290.50)
 


Ionia, c. 600 - 550 B.C.

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In Greek mythology, the Sirens were dangerous creatures, who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. In early Greek art, Sirens were represented as birds with large women's heads, bird feathers, and scaly feet. Later, they were represented as female figures with the legs of birds, with or without wings, playing a variety of musical instruments, especially harps. Later Sirens were sometimes depicted as beautiful women, whose bodies, not only their voices, were seductive.
SH84464. Electrum hemihekte, Unpublished in major references; Naville auction VII (1924), Bement Collection, lot 1435; CNG, Triton XI (8 Jan 2008), lot 253, aEF, tight flan, earthen deposits, weight 1.367 g, maximum diameter 8.8 mm, Ionia, uncertain mint, c. 600 - 550 B.C.; obverse siren standing left; reverse incuse square punch; ex Numismatica Ars Classica, auction 92, part 2 (24 May 2016), lot 1476; this type is not published in the major references but many examples are known from auctions; rare; $1440.00 (€1281.60)
 


Ionia, c. 600 - 550 B.C.

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The referenced Triton XIV coin is similar, but from different dies, and the only other coin of this type known to Forum.
SH84465. Electrum 1/24 stater, Unpublished in references; Classical Numismatic Group, Triton XIV (4 Jan 2011), lot 309 ($1800 plus fees), VF, well centered on a tight flan, edge cracks, weight 0.630 g, maximum diameter 7.1 mm, Ionia, uncertain mint, c. 600 - 550 B.C.; obverse cock standing left; reverse quadripartite incuse square punch; extremely rare; $1350.00 (€1201.50)
 


Ionia, c. 650 - 600 B.C., Rough Irregular "Typeless" Type

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Some sales catalogs describe similar coins as the striated type. The roughly parallel lines on the striated type appear to be impressed into the "obverse" by lines cut into the anvil. On this coin, it appears the rough irregular "typeless" surface is simply flattened rough pre-strike features from the raw irregular nugget-like "planchet." Based on the apparent wear on the reverse punch, huge numbers of this type may have been struck. Very few have survived. This is the first example handled by Forum.
SH77378. Electrum 1/24 stater, cf. SNGvA 7768, SNG Kayhan 682, Traité I 14 -15, Weidauer -, Rosen -, VF, weight 0.647 g, maximum diameter 5.7 mm, uncertain Ionian mint, 650 - 600 B.C.; obverse flattened rough irregular "typeless" surface; reverse roughly square incuse pyramidal punch with striated sides, divided roughly in half by a raised irregular line, striated sides and the irregular line appear to be the result of wear; very rare; $900.00 (€801.00)
 


Roman Republic, Aes Formatum, 4th Century B.C.

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Called aes formatum by Haeberlin, this very rare bronze currency was a precursor to the issues of aes grave but later than aes rude. Presumably, molten bronze-iron alloy was poured into a shallow hole in the dirt. This left a disc-shaped metal mound with a flat reverse. Broken examples are much more common than complete ones like this.
RT11424. Cast bronze Aes Formatum, Haeberlin p. 4, pl. 2.7; 1.196kg, 137mm, Italian mint, 4th century B.C.; obverse convex obverse; reverse flat reverse; the denarius is included in the photograph to indicate the size, it is not included with the aes formatum; very rare; $900.00 (€801.00)
 




  



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REFERENCES

Arnold-Biucchi, C., et al. "A Greek Archaic Silver Hoard from Selinus" in ANSMN 33 (1988).
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Betlyon, J. The Coinage and Mints of Phoenicia, The Pre-Alexandrine Period. (Chico, CA, 1982).
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Bodenstedt, F. Die Elektronmünzen von Phokaia und Mytilene. (Tübingen, 1981).
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Imhoof-Blumer, F. ed. Die antiken Münzen Nord-Griechenlands. (1898 - 1913).
Kagan, J. "An Archaic Greek coin hoard from the Eastern Mediterranean and early Cypriot coinage" in NC 1994.
Karwiese, S. Die Münzprägung von Ephesos. I. Die Anfänge: Die ältesten Prägungen und der Beginn der Münzprägung überhaupt. (Cologne/Weimar, 1995)
Kim, H. & J. Kroll. "A Hoard of Archaic Coin of Colophon and Unminted Silver (CH I.3)" in AJN 20 (2008).
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Linzalone, J. Electrum And The Invention of Coinage. (New Jersey, 2011).
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Catalog current as of Sunday, July 23, 2017.
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The Archaic Origins of Coinage