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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.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

How to buy Ancient Coins part 2: Heroes


The Greeks believed in Heroes.  They had a different idea of heroes than we do.  For the Greeks a Hero was someone who acted out the Will of the Gods - or a particular God or Goddess.  In fact, to the Greeks, the God or Goddess descended and entered the human and then acted through them.  Quite Literally.

The earliest human heroes were warriors such as Alexander the Great, the first human hero to be pictured on a coin.  In fact, the portrait coins of Alexander the Great are most probably the earliest extant sculpture portraying a known historical figure with some degree of realistic accuracy.

How important is that in both the history or art and the history of human accomplishment?

In the earliest portraits Alexander is pictured wearing Apollo's Laurel Wreath which identifies him directly with that God.  In later portraits he is adorned with the horns of Zeus Ammon, identifying him with that God.

In fact, heroes such was Alexander were deified and worshiped after their death.

After Alexander, many Greek rulers were pictured realistically on coinage.  The first Roman (excepting Quintus Labienus) to put his portrait on a coin is Julius Caesar.  He is also pictured wearing weaths that identify him with deities.  Like Alexander he also traced his lineage back to a God and also like Alexander he was deified and worshiped after his death.

And, like Alexander his finest portrait coins were executed by artists of the highest caliber.  After Julius Caesar, each and every Caesar and most of their wives and many of their children were pictured on coinage

Fine style portraits of these historical Generals and Kings and Princes are all of as yet unappreciated historical and artistic value when compared with most other art forms.

Really, as long as there are Lincoln Pennies and post modern doodles that trade for more than these ancient artworks, I think they can be safely considered to be vastly undervalued.

The trick is to find coinage a) of the finest style and then b) in as well conserved state of preservation you can find and afford.