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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Greek Coins| ▸ |Greek Countermarked||View Options:  |  |  |   

Countermarked Ancient Greek Coins

A countermark is a stamped or punched impression adding elements of design to a coin after it was originally struck. The practice of countermarking coins was widespread throughout antiquity. It was particularly common in the provinces of the Roman Empire. Countermarks were applied to coins for many reasons, including revalidation, revaluation, devaluation, and propaganda. Exactly when and why any individual countermark was applied is often uncertain.


Side, Pamphylia, c. 145 - 125 B.C.

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In 190 B.C. a fleet from Rhodes, supported by Rome and Pergamum, defeated the Seleucid fleet under the command of the fugitive Carthaginian general Hannibal. The Seleucid defeat freed Side from the overlord-ship of the Seleucid Empire. The Treaty of Apamea (188 B.C.) left Side in a state of uncertain freedom. It was during this period of autonomy that Side struck these tetradrachms. It would last until 36 B.C. when the city came under the rule of the Roman client King of Galatia, Amyntas.
GS92896. Silver tetradrachm, SNGvA 4796 (also with anchor c/m); SNG BnF 694; BMC Pamphylia p. 148, 46 (KΛE-YX), Choice VF, well centered, reverse strike a little flat, obverse flattened opposite of countermark, weight 16.505 g, maximum diameter 28.8 mm, die axis 0o, Side (near Selimiye, Antalya Province, Turkey) mint, magistrate Kleuch-, c. 145 - 125 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right in a crested Corinthian helmet; reverse Nike advancing left, wreath extended in right hand, pomegranate in left field, KΛ-E (magistrate's name) divided across field below center; countermark: anchor within incuse rectangle; ex Numismatik Naumann auction 77 (5 May 2019), lot 287; $500.00 (€440.00)
 


Larissa, Thessaly, Greece, c. 300 - 150 B.C.

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According to mythology, Larissa was founded by Acrisius, who was killed accidentally by his grandson, Perseus; the nymph Larissa was a daughter of the primordial man Pelasgu; Achilles was born at Larissa, and Hippocrates, the "Father of Medicine"; died there. Today, Larissa is the capital and largest city of the Thessaly region and an important commercial, agricultural, and industrial center of Greece.
GB92063. Bronze trichalkon, BCD Thessaly 1172.1 (same countermark), BCD Thessaly II 394.1 (same countermark), SNG Cop 147, Rogers 309, HGC 4 530 (S), BMC Thessaly -, VF, well centered, attractive dark patina, interesting countermark, some flatness of strike, edge crack, beveled obverse edge; c/m: VF, weight 11.952 g, maximum diameter 22.2 mm, die axis 270o, Larissa mint, c. 300 - 150 B.C.; obverse head of the nymph Larissa right, monogram behind; countermark on cheek: spiked helmet with visor, neck and cheek guards in a c. 6mm oval punch; reverse cavalryman prancing right, wearing spiked helmet, couched lance in right hand, star upper left, ΛA-PI/ΣNΩN divided above and below; ex Numismatik Lanz München, auction 112 (25 Nov 2002), 193; scarce; $400.00 (€352.00)
 


Thracians, Odrysian Kingdom, Hebryzelmis, c. 389 - 383 B.C.

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Hebryzelmis was a king of the Odrysian kingdom of Thrace, c. 389 - 383 B.C. Hebrizelm Hill on Greenwich Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named for Hebryzelmis. Based on several other examples with the same countermark placement, the countermarks were carefully placed to fit well with the design. In addition, a similar punch is found on at least one other examples, also near the nose.
GB89989. Bronze AE 17, Topalov p. 239, 86 (same countermarks, same placement), F, green patina with red areas, some corrosion, punch on nose, weight 4.974 g, maximum diameter 17.1 mm, die axis 180o, c. 389 - 383 B.C.; obverse turreted head of Cybele right, countermark: PH monogram in rectangular incuse (on neck); reverse Two-handled cup with a round body and conical mouth, EB-PY divided across field, grain ear right below, countermark: gorgoneion in round incuse (on vessel side); very rare; $180.00 (€158.40)
 


Augustus, 16 January 27 B.C. - 19 August 14 A.D., Sestos, Thracian Chersonesos

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Sestos was an ancient town of the Thracian Chersonesos, the modern Gallipoli peninsula in European Turkey. Situated on the Hellespont opposite Abydos, it was an Aeolian colony, founded by settlers from Lesbos, and the home of Hero in the legend of Hero and Leander.
CM89992. Bronze AE 18, RPC I 1740 (2 spec.; RPC online 6 spec., 2 with c/m), Varbanov III 2967 (R7); c/m: Howqego 460 (1 spec., same coin type, same placement), VF, tight flan, reverse a bit flattened opposite countermark, weight 3.485 g, maximum diameter 17.6 mm, die axis 0o, Sestos mint, obverse CEBACTOY, bare head right, countermark: six pointed star in a 7mm round punch; reverse CHCTI, lyre; very rare; $180.00 (€158.40)
 


Kings of Bosporos, Polemo I, c. 14 - 9 B.C.

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The Bosporan Kingdom (or Kingdom of the Cimmerian Bosporus) was in eastern Crimea and the Taman Peninsula on the shores of the Cimmerian Bosporus, the present-day Strait of Kerch (it was not named after the Bosphorus beside Istanbul). The mixed population adopted Greek language and civilization. The prosperity of the kingdom was based on the export of wheat, fish and slaves. The kingdom's golden age was 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. At the end of the 2nd century A.D., King Sauromates II inflicted a critical defeat on the Scythians and expanded his state to include the entire Crimea. It was the longest surviving Roman client kingdom, lasting until it was overrun by the Huns c. 375 A.D.
GB85937. Bronze tetrachalkon, Frolova-Ireland p. 52, pl. 33/1, pl. 34/1-5, MacDonald Bosporus 229, SNG Stancomb 961, Anokhin 256, HGC 7 347 (R2), RPC I -, SNG BM -, SNG Pushkin -, nice VF, bold strike, slightly off center, attractive near black patina with buff earthen highlighting, scratches, edge cracks, countermark, weight 9.295 g, maximum diameter 24.0 mm, die axis 0o, Pantikapaion (Kerch, Crimea) mint, c. 14 - 9 B.C.; obverse head of gorgon Medusa (or Perseus? - most references say a gorgon) right, winged, snakes (or drapery) around neck, obscure round countermark before; reverse monogram of Polemo I; very rare; $160.00 (€140.80)
 


Seleukid Kingdom, Achaios, Usurper in Anatolia, 220 - 214 B.C.

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Achaios (Achaeus) was an uncle of Antiochos III. In 223 B.C., Antiochus III appointed Achaeus to the command of Anatolia on the western side of Mount Taurus. Achaeus recovered all the districts which had been lost; but was falsely accused by Hermeias, the minister to Antiochus, of intending to revolt. In self-defense he assumed the title of king. Antiochus marched against Achaeus after he concluded the war with Ptolemy. After a two-year siege of his capital of Sardes, Lydia, Achaios was captured and beheaded.
GY89995. Bronze AE 18, Houghton-Lorber I 955(1)c, SNG Spaer 836, HGC 9 435 (R2), cf. Newell WSM 1441ε (same countermark, no control), F, dark patina, scratches, a little rough, light earthen deposits, weight 5.599 g, maximum diameter 18.0 mm, Lydia, Sardes (Sart, Turkey) mint, c. 220 - autumn/winter 214 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right, hair in formal (corkscrew) curls; reverse eagle standing right, head right, wings closed, transverse palm frond on far side, BAΣIΛEΩΣ (king) downward on right, AXAIOY downward on left, X (control) outer right, countermark: horse head right in a 6.5mm round punch; scarce; $160.00 (€140.80)
 


Valerian I, October 253 - c. June 260 A.D., Hierapolis, Phrygia in Homonoia with Sardis

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This coin commemorates the homonoia (alliance) between Phrygia and Sardis. Cities in Thrace and Asia minor sometimes formed alliances with other cities. The competition for prestige and rivalry between cities in the East was intense. Alliances could enhance a city’s status by aligning either with many cities or with particularly important ones. Homonoia was part of civic "foreign policy" and might have involved the exchange of delegates and joint celebrations and sacrifices. At least 87 cities issued homonoia coins celebrating their alliances.
RP77248. Bronze AE 28, Franke-Nolle, type VI, 857 (Vs.C/Rs.18); cf. SNGvA 3668; SNG Tübingen 4054; Lindgren III 596, VF, tight flan, obscure countermark on obverse, weight 9.924 g, maximum diameter 28.1 mm, die axis 180o, Phrygia, Hierapolis (near Pamukkale, Turkey) mint, Oct 253 - c. Jun 260 A.D.; obverse AY• K• - ΠOY• ΛIK• OYAΛEPAN/OC, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, from the front, round countermark on face; reverse IEPAΠOΛE/ITΩN - KE - CAP∆IANΩN, Apollo on left, standing right, plectrum in right hand, kithara in left hand; cult statue of Kore facing, wearing kalathos and veil, NEOKOPΩN downward in right field, OMONOYA in exergue; very rare; $130.00 (€114.40)
 


Roman Republic, Anonymous, 211 - 206 B.C.

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Janus (or Ianus) was the god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings and endings. He is most often depicted as having two faces or heads, facing in opposite directions. Janus is believed to be one of the few major deities in Roman mythology that does not have a Greek origin or counterpart.
RR88221. Bronze as, Crawford 56/2, Sydenham 143, BMCRR Rome 373 ff., SRCV I 627, F, green patina, crack, porous, weight 29.386 g, maximum diameter 33.3 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 211 - 206 B.C.; obverse laureate head of bearded Janus, I (mark of value) above, countermark: head right in round punch; reverse war galley prow right, I (mark of value) above, ROMA in exergue; ex Moneta Numismatic Services; $130.00 (€114.40)
 


Gallienus, August 253 - September 268 A.D., Side, Pamphylia

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The great ruins of Side are among the most notable in Asia Minor. The well-preserved city walls provide an entrance to the site through the Hellenistic main gate. Next comes the colonnaded street, all that remains of the marble columns are a few broken stubs near the old Roman baths. The street leads to the public bath, restored as a museum displaying statues and sarcophagi from the Roman period. Next is the square agora with the remains of a round Temple of Tyche in the middle. The agora was a trading center where pirates sold slaves. The remains of the theater, which was used for gladiator fights and later as a church, and the monumental gate date back to the 2nd century. The early Roman Temple of Dionysus is near the theater. The fountain gracing the entrance is restored. At the left side are the remains of a Byzantine Basilica. A public bath has also been restored. The remaining ruins of Side include three temples, an aqueduct, and a nymphaeum. The photograph right is of ruins of the temple of Apollo.Temple of Apollo
RP88913. Bronze 5 assaria, SNG Cop 4844 (same obv. die), SNG BnF 924, BMC Lycia p. 160, 110, SNG Pfalz -, SNG Cop -, SNG Righetti -, Lindgren -; c/m: Howgego 805 (169 pcs), VF, well centered on a broad flan, porous, weight 17.834 g, maximum diameter 30.5 mm, die axis 30o, Side (near Selimiye, Antalya Province, Turkey) mint, joint reign, Aug 253 - 260 A.D.; obverse AYT KAI ΠOY ΛI ΓAΛΛIHNOC CE, laureate bust right, wearing paludamentum and cuirass, eagle right with wings open below; countermark on right: E (5 assaria) in 7.5mm round punch obliterating IA (prior mark of value); reverse CI∆HTΩN NEΩKOPΩN, Apollo standing front, head left, wearing short chiton, chlamys and boots, patera in right hand, left hand rests on laurel tipped staff, pomegranate on branch right; scarce; $130.00 (€114.40)
 


Alexandreia Troas, Troas, 2nd - 1st Century B.C.

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Alexandria Troas (modern Eski Stambul) is on the Aegean Sea near the northern tip of the west coast of Anatolia, a little south of Tenedos (modern Bozcaada). The city was founded by Antigonus around 310 B.C. with the name Antigoneia and was populated with the inhabitants of Cebren, Colone, Hamaxitus, Neandria, and Scepsis. About 301 B.C., Lysimachus improved the city and re-named it Alexandreia. Among the few structure ruins remaining today are a bath, an odeon, a theater and gymnasium complex and a stadium. The circuit of the old walls can still be traced.
CM89990. Bronze AE 19, SNG Cop 96 (same countermarks); cf. BMC Troas p. 12, 29 ff.; SNG München 92 f.; SNGvA 1461, F, scattered porosity, edge crack, clear countermarks, weight 3.948 g, maximum diameter 18.6 mm, die axis 0o, Alexandria Troas (Eski Stambul, Turkey) mint, 2nd - 1st Century B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo facing; c/m: lyre; reverse lyre, AΛEΞAN (or similar) around), all within laurel wreath; c/m: star of six rays around a central pellet within a 7.5mm round punch; $120.00 (€105.60)
 




  



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REFERENCES|

Baker, R. "The Countermarks Found on Ancient Roman Coins: A Brief Introduction" in SAN XV (1984). pp. 52-58.
Barag, D. "The countermarks of the Legio Decima Fretensis" in Kindler Patterns. (Tel-Aviv, 1967).
Barag, D. & S. Qedar. "A Countermark of the Legio Quinta Scytica from the Jewish War" in INJ 13 (1994).
Bauslaugh, R. "Cistophoric Countermarks and the Monetary System of Eumenes II" in NC 1990.
Calciati, R. Corpus Nummorum Siculorum. The Bronze Coinage. (Milan, 1983 - 1987).
Davesne, A. "Une contremarque au trident sur certaines monnaies de Ptolémée II Philadelphe" in BSFN 42/2 (Feb. 1987), pp. 145-149.
Elayi, J. & A. Lemaire. Graffiti et contremarques ouest-sémitiques sur les monnaies grecques et proche-orientales. Glaux 13. (Milan, 1998).
Howgego, C.J. Greek Imperial Countermarks. RNS, Special Publication No. 17. (London, 1985).
Martini, R. Nomismata 6: The Pangerl Collection Catalog and Commentary on the Countermarked Roman Imperial Coins. (Milan, 2003).
McAlee, R. The Coins of Roman Antioch. (Lancaster, PA, 2007).
Rosenberger, M. The Rosenberger Israel Collection Vol. IV: The Coinage of Eastern Palestine, and legionary countermarks, Bar-Kochba overstruck. (Jerusalem, 1978).
Sear, D. Greek Coins and Their Values, Vol. 1: Europe. (London, 1978).
Sear, D. Greek Coins and Their Values, Vol. 2: Asia and Africa. (London, 1979).
Seyrig, H. "Monnaies contremarquées en Syrie," in Syria 35 (1958), pp. 187-197.
Topalov, S. New Contributions to the Study of the Countermarking of Coins in the Area of the West Pontic Cities, 3rd-1st c. B.C. (Sofia, 2002).
Waggoner, N. "The Propontis Hoard" in NR XII, 1979, pp. 7 - 29, plates I - X.
Werz, U. Gegenstempel auf Reichs - und Provinzialprägungen der römischen Kaiserzeit - Katalog der Sammlung Dr. Konrad Bech, Mainz. (Speyer, 2004).

Catalog current as of Friday, November 22, 2019.
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Greek Countermarked