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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gold Stater Ancient Gold Coin Update 5: Persia

Gold Stater Ancient coin update 5: Persia

To quote my own site, Solon Numismatics: The Aechemenid or Persian Empire was forged by Cyrus the Great (liberator of the Jews of the Babylonian captivity) in about 550 BCE. The Persians dominated three continents spanning from Parthia and Bactria (modern day India) through Mesopotamia to the Black Sea Region and down through the Fertile Crescent.

Darios I conquered Croesus of Lydia and adopted his system of gold and silver coinage. The story of how Darios spared Croesus life when Croesus recounted the famous warning of Solon of Athens is told in earlier posts. Darios continued to mint Lion and Bull Gold Staters and fractions at the Sardes mint, and possibly at the Babylon mint in Persia. Prices for these tend to be exactly the same as for those minted under Croesus. Stylistically they do differ somewhat. They seem to be equally as rare.

Late in the sixth century BCE the Persian kings decided to inaugurate a gold coinage bearing their own types, using roughly the same weight standard as Croesus of Lydia. These new coins (the gold were called Darics, and the silver were called Sigloi), bore a generalized portrait of the Persian king, on the obverse, while the reverse bore a simple punch. They must have been produced in enormous numbers, and were surely the best known gold coin of the 5th and 4th centuries BC.

The earliest of these gold Darics depicted a kneeling "Great King" shooting a bow and arrow. These are very rare. I've never seen one in better than Good VF condition (Perhaps XF, using the NGC grading system - though i've never seen one graded.) In this condition this coin still sells for around $7,500 (or did when last seen, two years ago. Now, it's anybody's guess.)

The next rarest type is that of the Great King running with dagger. These can appear in very high grade (Perhaps Mint State) and sell in this grade for around $6,500. The style tends to be clumsy, otherwise they'd probably go a lot higher.

The most common Daric depicts the "Great King" running with bow and spear. (See the pictured coin above). These come in a great variety of styles, and are divided into three rough periods. Early coins are dated 480-420 BCE. Middle period from 420-375 BCE, Later Darics 375-336 BCE. High grade Fine Style specimens have sold for as high as $11,000 recently. High grade coins of clumsier style tend to sell (when Mint State) for around $6-7000. However, in true MS this is a very rare coin in any style or period. But the style is most often clumsy.

The last Achemenid King, Darios III, was conquered by Alexander the Great in 330 BCE. With the fall of Persia to Alexander, the vast majority of the then existing darics were surely all melted down to supply bullion for Alexander’s own gold staters.

However, Darics and Double Darics continued to be minted in very small quantities at the Alexandria mint for a few years. The double Darics tend to be horribly struck. A nicely struck example, if it could be found, would go for a lot of money. The regular Alexandrine Darics are often struck in distinctive and pleasing styles. In high grade these are also very rare and would surely sell for $7-10,000.

In common grades and clumsy style Darics tend to sell in the $1500 - $3000 range.

Next in the series, Update 6: Syracuse.

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