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Thursday, July 20, 2017

How to buy Ancient coins part III: ARCHAIC COINAGE

What was the first coin?  Where was it minted?

Legend has it that coinage was invented by the Lydians.  Croesus certainly minted the first bimetallic coinage with gold and silver staters of about 10.7 grams.


Prior to Croesus, Alyattes and perhaps Ardys minted coins in Electrum as early as 650 or perhaps even 675 BCE in Lydia,

But electrum coinage appears all throughout the Black Sea area of what is now present day Turkey.  Ephasos, Kyzykos, Miletos, Samos, and Phokia all minted electrum coinage.


The archeologists who excavated sites such as Ephasus date the coinage to the early part of the seventh century.  They did this because they were able to date with some precision other objects found at the same level of the excavation site along with the coinage.  For example objects with inscriptions, especially royal inscriptions, can often be dated fairly accurately, and objects found with or near these are assumed to be of the same time period.

Numismatists have re-dated much electrum based on die studies.  These die studies are accepted by other numismatists as being useful in dating coinage, but are not accepted as historical evidence by archeologists.  So there is a dispute.  Obviously in the coin world, dating, especially by coin houses, as well as grading companies is done according to accepted numismatic practices.  But these are far from what would be considered as historically accurate in any other discipline.

So, there are discrepancies.  And a lot of guesswork.

Even the precise locations of many mints in this early period are not known.  All we know for sure is that large coins called Staters as well as fractions thereof, the most common being the Hekte of sixth stater, were minted throughout the Black Sear Area as early as 675BCE and perhaps even earlier.

What this really means it that there is an entire area of collecting where an enthusiast with a little initiative can acquire examples from early human history and study the origin of coinage for themselves, and make their own connections and come up with their own theories.

What could be more interesting than that?

And because most every example, especially of the Staters will be found in conditions that do not approach mint state, so the prices are relatively cheap, as many collectors are obsessed with condition.

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