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 coin, the Athenian owl and the Obol, just to name a few.     

What were Ancient Greek Coins Called?

The coins of Ancient Greece, as well of 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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Alexander the Great (336-323 BC), Silver Drachm

Alexander the Great (336-323 BC), Silver Drachm. Obverse: Head of Herakles wearing lion-skin head-dress. Reverse: Zeus enthroned holding eagle and sceptre. Good Very Fine Condition Actual size of coin varies between 15-17mm diameter PHOTOGRAPH IS REPRESENTATIVE OF COIN SUPPLIED

Alexander the Great Tetradrachm VF

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

Crete, Rhaukos, Silver Stater, 350-330 B.C. VF

Silver Stater from Rhaukos, Crete dating from ca.350-330 B.C. (S.3374) Very Fine

Dynasts of Lycia, Perikles. Ca. 380-360 B.C. AR 1/3 Stater. EF

Dynasts of Lycia, Perikles. Ca. 380-360 B.C. AR 1/3 Stater. Lion's scalp facing / Legend around Triskeles. Extremely Fine.

Gaul, Massalian Obol. Ca. 350-150 B.C.

Massalia is the ancient name of the French city of Marseilles. Established about 600 B.C. by Greek colonists coming from Phocaea (now Foça, in modern Turkey) it soon became rich as the link between Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. One citizen, Pytheas, sailed North between 330-320 B.C. to find a cheaper sea trade route for Cornish Tin. While exploring he was the first to link the tides to the moon, the first Mediterranean to see floating sea ice, the Midnight Sun in the arctic, and to explore the British Isles! He travelled around the coast by boat and on the land on foot. The coins on offer here are Silver Obols struck between Ca. 350-150 B.C., the peak of Massalia’s prosperity. They show the head of Apollo on the obverse and on the reverse a wheel with ‘M-A’. They are Very Fine in grade but typically some are slightly off struck. As always the first to order will get the best.

Silver Drachm of Parion 5th Century B.C.

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. Pick up this ancient coin for just £90, priced to please!