The first Ancient Greek Coins appeared in Aegina around 600 BCE and were amongst the first coins ever minted by a western civilization. Their design tells the story of a fascinating civilisation. A society that minted coins to celebrate outstanding individuals, gods, and religious practices, as well as ancient international relations. Examples are the Alexander the Great coins the Athenian Owl, and the Obol, just to name a few.
What were Ancient Greek Coins Called?
The coins of Ancient Greece, as well as modern-day Greece pre-euro, were called Drachma. The denominations used in the old city-states of Greece, differ from city-state to city-state (polis) and derive from the weights for gold and silver merchants used to trade goods. To make matters worse, the weights used also differed from era to era. And as you may know, their coinage went through 4 different periods: the Archaic, the Classical, the Hellenistic, and the Roman. So here too, there are substantial differences coin collectors need to be aware of.
So in the name of keeping things simple for newbie coin collectors, we are going to use the Attic standard to answer this question. As it was the most popular weight standard in the Greek world, due to the power and influence of Athens across the ancient world. In this standard, the Drachm is the base, divided by obols with a sixth of the value.
Starting from largest to smallest, the denominations of Greek coins were as follows:
Alexander the Great (336-323 BC), Silver Tetradrachm (25mm) in Good Fine Condition. Obverse: Head of Alexander as Herakles wearing lion-skin head-dress. Reverse: Zeus enthroned holding eagle and sceptre. Good Fine Condition.
Everyone has heard of Alexander the Great but most collectors only dream of owning a coin in his name. We have a small group of silver tetradrachms that were struck in his name by the Ptolemaic dynasty in the 3rd Century B.C. On one side you have the head of Herakles wearing a lion’s skin headdress and on the other Alexander’s name ‘AΛEΞANΔPOY’ in Greek script with the seated Zeus holding an eagle and sceptre. These particular coins also have a countermark of an anchor that would have allowed them to circulate in Seleukid lands, three kingdoms for the price of one! They are struck on a large flan, grade About Very Fine with some discolouration from their time spent in the ground, don’t miss out on owning an Alexander the Great Tetradrachm struck in the 3rd Century.
Alexander the Great (336-323 BC), Silver Tetradrachm (25mm). Obverse: Head of Alexander as Herakles wearing lion-skin head-dress. Reverse: Zeus enthroned holding eagle and sceptre. Very Fine Condition. PHOTOGRAPH IS REPRESENTATIVE OF COIN SUPPLIED.
We were sorting out old stock we have recently relocated and we discovered these Ancient Greek bronze arrowheads! They date from Ca. 1000-600 B.C. and have a wide, slashing head. This meant they would have been e effective for hunting or war, which at the time was mostly fought between unarmoured warriors. While the size varies slightly they average 45 mm long with the tang that would have been socketed into a shaft to make the arrow. They come with a certificate of authenticity and are priced at only £49.50! A nearly 3000-year-old artefact! Let's hope they don't vanish before you get the chance to buy yours…
The ancient City of Aspendos in Pamphylia is famous for its ancient coins. They were an early city to mint regularly to display their great wealth from trade. These silver Stater coins were struck about 400-350 B.C. and show Olympic wrestlers on the obverse with a slinger on the reverse. Likely because the word sling (σφενδόνη) sounds similar to the name of the city (ασπενδοζ), the Ancient Greeks loved a pun! These coins were used in their local area and across the ancient world. If a person accepting this as payment wanted to be sure it was solid silver they would make a ‘test-cut’ into the Stater to see the core without losing any silver. Some then stamped it with a mark to show they had checked the coin, ancient quality control! We bought this fascinating group for a great deal so we offer these trade coins to you at inflation busting prices, just £195 for 11g of Ancient Greek silver with individual history! An ancient person once looked at this coin in their pocket like you do today…
Ariobarzanes I (grandfather of Ariobarzanes III) was technically the King of Cappadocia from 95 B.C. to 63/62 B.C. After the previous royal line died out he was chosen by the people and appointed by the Roman area governor, the famous Sulla, earning the nickname Philorhomaios (friend of the Romans). Over the next 30 years Mithradates VI Eupator of Pontos removed Ariobarzanes three times, but each time the Romans would put him back on the throne. Finally, Mithradates was defeated once and for all by Pompey the Great who gave some extra territory to Ariobarzanes. After expanding his territory and meeting all the big names of the time we suspect he had had enough and abdicated for his son, Ariobarzanes II! We offer a Silver Drachm from Cappadocia of Ariobarzanes I. They show his head on the obverse with Athena holding Nike on the reverse. They grade Very Fine and we bought this small group very well so we are going to pass the savings on this Greek silver to you!
Cyprus, Kition. Azbaal - Ca. 449-425 B.C. AR Stater. Herakles in fighting stance right wearing lion skin & holding bow with club overhead / Lion attacking (from behind) a stag, facing right, inside dotted border within incuse square. Obverse struck from worn die as usual for these, Very Fine & Rare. Made during the time of Persian rule on Cyprus. The founder of Stoicism, Zeno, was from this city.
Founded in 709 B.C., the ancient city of Parion is the present-day town of Kemer in Canakkale province of Turkey. It was a major coastal city and trading port with two harbours. Parion enjoyed strong relations with Thrace and Anatolia throughout history and it was the main customs station through which all goods bound for Constantinople (Istanbul) from Greece and the Aegean had to pass. After being conquered by the Persian Empire in the 6th Century B.C. it passed to Lysimachus in the 4th Century B.C. and then the Attalids in the 3rd. From one tyrant to another! A local city-coinage system was introduced by the ancient Greeks and continued through to Roman times with later coins being issued in the name of the emperor. The image of the Gorgoneion was used to ward off evil and for that reason was put on door frames, shields, and of course, on coins! We have recently bought a small collection of archaic Silver Drachm made in this city in the 5th Century B.C.. The obverse shows the facing head of a Gorgoneion with a protruding tongue and the reverse depicts a disorganized linear pattern within an incuse square. The coins are all in a Fine condition as they were used at the time and have survived from 2400 years ago! But they are a fascinating charm to ward off evil, then and now. Add this ancient coin to your collection. Priced to please!
Histiaia, Euboia, ca. 340-330BC, Silver Tetrobol. Obverse: Head of the nymph Histiaia wreathed with vine and hair rolled facing to right. Reverse.: The nymph Histiaia seated to right on the stern of a galley. Very Fine+
Pausanias tells us Kolophon was one of the earliest Greek settlements, founded on the Ionian coast about 1000 B.C. Eight miles from the sea and facing East meant instead of trading with passing ships their main product was horses, which they were also experts at riding. These they supplied around the Greek and Persian world. They were very proud of this reverse of their bronze coins made between Ca. 330-285 B.C. showing a horseman galloping, and their principle god Apollo on the obverse. The city flourished until the end of this period meaning the quality of the coins plummeted until the Romans arrived 300 years later. These are the last of these beautiful classic coins from this city, sold at a price we think you will agree, is most pleasing. Available in Fine grade.
Islands off Thrace, Thasos, ca.148-90 BC. Silver Tetradrachm. Obv. Head of young Dionysos to right. Rev. Herakles standing naked left holding club and lion's skin. About Extremely Fine / Good Very Fine
Lampsakos (Latinised as Lampsacus) was an ancient Greek city on the Eastern side of the Hellespont, founded in the 7th Century B.C. It grew rich controlling trade through this corridor so during the 6th-4th centuries B.C. It was conquered by the Lydians, then Persians, then Athenians, Spartans, and finally Persia again. Captured in the 330s B.C. by Alexander the Great he threatened destruction on them as he thought them pro-Persian. They sent Anaximenes of Lampsakos who heard Alexander had sworn to do the opposite they asked, so he said, ‘Please majesty: enslave the women and children of Lampsakos, burn their temples, and raze the city to the ground.’ Alexander was tricked and reluctantly pardoned the people of Lampsakos. It prospered for the rest of antiquity. We have a little group of small silver coins from this city dating between 500-450 B.C. They have the early, archaic style showing a female Janiform (one face forward, one backward) head on the obverse with Athena in a Corinthian helmet on the reverse. They are about 2500 years old, grade About Very Fine and the first to order will get the best centred examples! At this price, we do not expect them to stay long.
Lucania, Metapontum. Ca. 470-440 B.C. AR Nomos. Barley ear; in left field a ram's head facing upward / Incuse barley ear. About Very Fine & Scarce. A well known coin from antiquity the incuse is said to have been designed by Pythagoras, the school childs bane.
Philip II ruled from 359-336 B.C. and began the rise of the Kingdom of Macedon. He reformed the army and was able to dominate the rest of the Greek city-states. As he was preparing to invade the Achaemenid Persian Empire he was assassinated by a member of his bodyguard so his son Alexander the Great took over, how different history could have been! The last time we had this type they sold out in all grades and it has been hard to get more! These bronze coins grade Very Fine, show the head of Apollo on the obverse and a naked youth on horseback on the reverse. Be the proud owner of a nearly two and a half thousand-year-old coin of Philip II of Macedon, Father of Alexander the Great.
These coins were struck during the most important and powerful period of The Macedonian Kingdom. They were first made under Philip II (359-336 B.C.), then Alexander the Great and his successors until about 240 B.C. They are linked to their military conflicts at the time by the Macedonian shield on the obverse and Macedonian helmet on the reverse. It is often from coins like these that archaeologists can recreate the broken, crumpled artefacts they find into what you see in the museum. These 2,400 year old coins grade in Fine meaning they have circulated at the time but this is reflected in a price of just £35 for something that was used in the markets of Alexander the Great.
The city of Miletos on the coast of modern Turkey has been occupied since the Neolithic, rising and falling a few times before this coin was made between 520-450 B.C. In 499 B.C. the Ionion Revolt started, headed by Miletos’ tyrant, Aristagoras, against the Achaemenid Persian Empire. This revolt was the first act of the famous Greco-Persian Wars! Despite a good start it was crushed by Darius the Great in 494 B.C. He killed the men, sold the women & children into slavery with the young men made eunuchs so that no Milesian would ever be born again. Don’t worry, some had escaped to Greece so Miletos survived and the Persians quickly rebuilt the city for trade. These small silver coins called a Diobol were made before and after the revolt, show a Lion on the obverse with a stellate pattern on the reverse. Archaic, Greek silver coin in Good Fine grade, nearly £2,500 years old and at under £100!
Seleukid Kingdom. Antiochos I. 280-261 B.C. Seleucia on the Tigris. AR Tetradrachm. Diad. head of Antiochos with middle-aged features / Naked Apollo seated L. on Omphalos holding arrow; Monograms to L. & R. About Very Fine & Scarce as early in the dynasty.
Founded in 709 B.C., the ancient city of Parion is the present day town of Kemer in Turkey. The image of the Gorgoneion was used to ward off evil and so was put on this silver Drachm made in Parion in the 6th Century B.C. We have two grades, Fine & Very Fine, a fascinating charm, 2500 years ago and now.
According to legend the city now known as Istanbul was originally founded in the 7th Century B.C. by Greek colonists from Megara, near Athens. Byzantium commanded the entrance to the Black Sea and grew rich from grain traffic, fishing, and other trade. The city thus made coins to show this wealth and facilitate trade! We have a group of silver Hemidrachm that were first minted in 387 B.C. after the Corinthian War. This period was known as the ‘King’s Peace’ in Greece, named for the King of Persia, Artaxerxes II, as he brokered it. These coins continued to be struck after the Peace ended until Philip II of Macedon unsuccessfully besieged Byzantium in 340 B.C. and production stopped. They show the forepart of a heifer or bull riding a dolphin on the obverse with an ornamented trident on the reverse to represent their patron god, Poseidon! We have a group grading About Very Fine, don’t miss out on a coin from the King’s Peace 2,400 years ago…
Thessaly, Larissa, ca.344-337 B.C.. Silver Trihemiobol. Obverse: Head of the nymph Larissa three quarter facing to left with her hair floating loosely. Reverse: Thessalian horseman galloping to right holding a spear, ΛAP-I Σ around, AIΩN below. About Very Fine
These silver coins come from the Greek colony of Cherronesos, on the present-day Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. They were issued over the period from 400-350 B.C. to support trade with cities along the coast of the Black Sea. They feature the forepart of a lion on the obverse and on the reverse a four-part incuse square with various mintmark symbols. A striking coin and now nearly 2400 years old!
Don’t miss out on the latest Antique Greek Coins we have for Sale