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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."


Kyzikos, Mysia, c. 550 - 450 B.C.

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Kyzikos, purportedly the first Milesian colony, was located on the southwest shore of the Propontis in ancient Mysia next to the river Aisepos. Its prosperity was due principally to its two fine harbors, which made the city a convenient stopping point for merchant ships trading between the Aegean and Black Seas. Its principal export was the tunny, of which its waters had abundant stock. The prevalence of winged beings in Kyzikene coinage is a reflection of archaic mythological convention that assigned wings to most divine or sacred entities as an immediately visible and understandable symbol of their nature, and in the case of gods, of their power to move at will across great distances. In the case of the winged animals, we should probably understand these to be attributes of or animals sacred to a particular Olympian god.
SH86217. Electrum stater, Von Fritze I (Nomisma VII) 104 & pl. 3, 23; Boston MFA 1433; SNG BnF 245; SNG Cop -; SNGvA -; BMC Mysia -, VF, tight flan, edge cracks, weight 16.091 g, maximum diameter 19.9 mm, die axis 0o, Kyzikos mint, c. 550 - 450 B.C.; obverse winged dog seated left, head turned back right, curved archaic wing, wearing collar, tunny fish below to left; reverse quadripartite incuse square; extremely rare; $7800.00 (€6630.00)
 


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.
SL85595. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG Munchen 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, NGC MS, strike 5/5, surface 3/5 (4377469-089), well centered, bold strike, some light marks, weight 17.18 g, maximum diameter 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 owl standing right, head facing, erect in posture, olive sprig and crescent left, AΘE downward on right, all within incuse square; NGC certified (slabbed); ex Heritage Auction 231729, lot 63023; $2350.00 (€1997.50)
 


Phokaia, Ionia, c. 521 - 478 B.C.

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Phocaea, or Phokaia, was the northernmost Ionian city, on the boundary with Aeolis. The Phocaeans were the first Greeks to make long sea-voyages, developed a thriving seafaring economy, became a great naval power, and founded the colonies Massalia (Marseille, France), Emporion (Empúries, Spain) and Elea (Velia, Italy). They remained independent until all of mainland Ionia fell to Croesus of Lydia (c. 560-545 B.C.). In 546 B.C., Lydia was conquered by Cyrus the Great of Persia. After the Greeks defeated Xerxes I, Phocaea joined the Delian League, but later rebelled with the rest of Ionia. In 387 B.C., Phocaea returned to Persian control. After Alexander, it fell under Seleucid, then Attalid, and finally Roman rule.
SH86213. Electrum hekte, Bodenstedt em. 32, 7 (d/γ); Weber III 5736 (= Bodenstedt 7); Boston MFA 1906, SNG Kayhan -; SNG Cop -, SNGvA -, BMC Ionia -, Rosen -, EF, superb archaic style, well struck, tight flan, weight 2.529 g, maximum diameter 10.1 mm, die axis 0o, Phocaea mint, c. 521 - 478 B.C.; obverse archaic style head of Athena right, wearing Corinthian helmet, almond shaped eye, slight smile, long hair in rows of dots, dotted necklace, seal upward behind; reverse quadripartite incuse square; $2000.00 SALE PRICE $1800.00 ON RESERVE


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.
SH86160. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG Munchen 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, gVF, bold strike, toned, traces of find patina, edge cracks, weight 17.133 g, maximum diameter 24.7 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 CNG e-auction 405, lot 132; $1550.00 (€1317.50)
 


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

Click for a larger photo
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.
SH86208. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG Munchen 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, gVF, bold well centered strike with high relief dies, banker's mark and graffito on chin, edge cracks, weight 17.098 g, maximum diameter 26.1 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 owl standing right, head facing, erect in posture, olive sprig and crescent left, AΘE downward on right, all within incuse square; $1400.00 (€1190.00)
 


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; $1300.00 (€1105.00)
 


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; $1290.00 (€1096.50)
 


Mytilene, Lesbos, c. 521 - 478 B.C.

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Mytilene on the southeast edge of Lesbos, opposite the mainland, was founded about 1054 B.C. It was initially confined to a small island just offshore that later was joined to Lesbos, creating a north and south harbor. In the 7th century B.C., Mytilene successfully contested for the leadership of Lesbos with Methymna, on the north side of the island. Mytilene became the center of the island's prosperous eastern hinterland.
SH86212. Electrum hekte, Bodenstedt 13, SNGvA 1685, SNG Cop 301, HGC 6 938 (S), gVF, well centered, edge crack, weight 2.579 g, maximum diameter 10.7 mm, die axis 90o, Mytilene mint, c. 521 - 478 B.C.; obverse roaring lion's head right; reverse incuse calf's head left; scarce; $1200.00 (€1020.00)
 


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; $1080.00 (€918.00)
 


Mytilene, Lesbos, c. 521 - 478 B.C.

Click for a larger photo
Mytilene on the southeast edge of Lesbos, opposite the mainland, was founded about 1054 B.C. It was initially confined to a small island just offshore that later was joined to Lesbos, creating a north and south harbor. In the 7th century B.C., Mytilene successfully contested for the leadership of Lesbos with Methymna, on the north side of the island. Mytilene became the center of the island's prosperous eastern hinterland.
SH86205. Electrum hekte, Bodenstedt 13, SNGvA 1685, SNG Cop 301, HGC 6 938, Choice EF, well centered and struck, fine style, edge cracks, weight 2.577 g, maximum diameter 10.6 mm, die axis 30o, Mytilene mint, c. 521 - 478 B.C.; obverse roaring lion's head right; reverse incuse calf's head left; $900.00 (€765.00)
 




  



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REFERENCES

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Catalog current as of Wednesday, December 13, 2017.
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The Archaic Origins of Coinage