Ancient Greek Coins

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:

  • Dekadrachm – ratio of 10
  • Tetradrachm – ratio of 4
  • the Drachm – ratio 1
  • Tetrobol – ratio of 2/3
  • Triobol/Hemidrachm – ratio of 1/2
  • Diobol – ratio of 1/3
  • Trihemiobol – ratio of 1/4
  • Obol – ratio of 1/6
  • Tritartemorion  – ratio of 1/8
  • Hemiobol – ratio of 1/12
  • Trihemitartemorion – ratio of 1/16
  • Tetartemorion –  ratio of 1/24

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Thrace, Cherronesos Hemidrachm Good Fine_obv

Thrace, Cherronesos Hemidrachm Good 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!

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