‘Bee and Stag’ Tetradrachm from Ephesos, Ionia, c. 390-325 BC, by the magistrate Phanagores

From almost the very beginning of the history of coinage the Greeks made coins depicting animals symbolic of their city. The the bee was one of the first symbolic animals ever used. The obverse of this coin shows a lovely  bee with straight wings and the inscription for Ephesus, E-Φ,  The reverse shows the forepart of a stag to the right, its head turned back with a palm tree and the inscription of the magistrate who issued the coin, ΦΑΝΑΓΟΡΗΣ.

Ephesos (Ephesus) used the bee on its coins since it was a producer of honey, so the bee advertised their most famous product. The bee was also mythologically connected to Ephesus because, according to Philostratos, the colonizing Athenians were led to Ephesus and Ionia by the Muses who took the form of bees.

The city was also the location of the famous Temple of Artemis. Her priestesses were called 'melissai" or “honey bees” of the goddess. The stag, like the one used on this coin is also an attribute of Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. This animal was regarded as sacred to her and stag figures were said to have flanked the cult statue of Artemis in her  temple at Ephesus. The palm tree on the obverse alludes to Artemis’ birthplace, the island of Delos, where the goddess Leto gave birth to Artemis and her twin brother Apollo underneath a palm tree. This coin represents its city of origin well.

Ephesus was an ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia, three kilometers southwest of present-day Selçuk in Izmir Province, Turkey. It was built in the 10th century BC on the site of the former Arzawan capital by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists.

Δεκάτη Ὑστέρα- Δεκάτη Φθίνοντος/ Μετεικὰς- Ἀμφιδεκάτη, XXI day
From today’s sunset: twenty-first day of Gamelion.
The twenty-first day is always sacred to Athena.

(Distater of Thourioi, Lucania, with head of Athena. Athena, profile to right, wearing necklace and crested Attic helmet, on which is Skylla, with dog’s heads springing from her waist. On the neck piece of the helmet a griffin. Lucania, about 400–350 BCE. Now in the Boston Museum…)

Archaeologists hail "magical moment" as rare Roman gold coin found at Vindolanda

Archaeologists thought they had more chance of winning the lottery than finding a gold coin at the Roman site of Vindolanda – until a volunteer from France struck lucky

In a breakthrough which defied two generations of diggers along Hadrian’s Wall, a volunteer French archaeologist has found the first gold coin at Vindolanda, the Roman site which has been intriguing excavators for almost 50 years.

Described as being “well-worn”, the confirmed aureus bears the image of the Emperor Nero, dating it to around AD 64 or 65. The precious currency was worth half a years’ salary for serving soldiers, but was lost on the northern outpost of the empire following 300 years in circulation. Read more.

The Most Famous Ancient Coin: The Ides of March Denarius

Sold for $546,250.00

A silver denarius struck by Julius Caesar’s assassin Marcus Brutus in 42 BC, celebrating the infamous deed that occured on March 15, 44 BC.

The dime-sized silver coin depicts the head of Marcus Junius Brutus, one of the ringleaders of the assassination plot, on its obverse. The reverse depicts a dome-shaped liberty cap, flanked by two drawn daggers, and the Latin inscription EID MAR.

This is the only Roman coin to openly celebrate an act of murder, the only Roman coin to mention a specific date and one of the very few ancient coins to enter the popular imagination.

Not only is this one of the finest examples known of this historic rarity, this ‘Ides of March’ denarius once resided in the collections of well-known Hollywood producer Sy Weintraub and the actor Peter Weller. It was also in the world-famous Nelson Bunker Hunt Collection, sold in 1990, with an auction pedigree going back to the early 1900s. As an important historic coin with a distinguished pedigree, it is one of the most desirable collectible of any kind that one could ever imagine acquiring.


Byzantine Museum of Phthiotis, Hypati:

From the numismatic collection of the museum:

A silver tetradrachm from Athens, (4th century B.C)

Two silver drachms, Khushro II (591-628 A.D), Sassanian. These two drachms belong to a collection of Persian coins that display the long history of cultural exchange between the Persians and the Byzantines.

A solidus, Justin II (565-578 A.D), minted at Constantinople.

Bronze coin, Taxilla (3rd century B.C), Bactria and India

Bronze coin, Soter Megas (65-103 A.D), Bactria and India. From 3rd century B.C until 3rd century A.D the numismatic tradition of the Middle East and India is greatly influenced by the greek designs and technology.

The museum has an extensive numismatic collection, illustrating both the numismatic history of Greece, and that of cultures who came in contact with greek culture and traded in greek space. The coinage is both from archaeological excavations and donations. A considerable amount of the collection was donated to the museum mostly by a prominent citizen of Hypati, Konstantinos Kotsilis, who is an amateur historian and researcher, a member of many societies and organizations, and who has published a number of articles, studies and books on the history and folklore of Hypati and Phthiotis in collaboration with local newspapers and journals. Konstantinos Kotsilis and his wife Nitsa Maragoudaki donated their extensive numismatic collection after they lost their daughter Ioanna in a car accident in 1999.

Tetradrachm of King Pyrrhus of Epirus, Lokroi Epizephyrioi mint, c. 297-272 BC

A masterpiece of Hellenistic engraving and one of the finest known.

The tetradrachm shows Dodonean Zeus, whose sanctuary was at Dodona in Epirus. Epirus achieved fame during the reign of Pyrrhus, whose campaigns against Rome are the origin of the term “Pyrrhic victory”. Pyrrhus’ army suffered irreplaceable casualties in defeating the Romans at Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279 BC during the Pyrrhic War. After the latter battle, Plutarch relates in a report by Dionysius:

The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one more such victory would utterly undo him. For he had lost a great part of the forces he brought with him, and almost all his particular friends and principal commanders; there were no others there to make recruits, and he found the confederates in Italy backward. On the other hand, as from a fountain continually flowing out of the city, the Roman camp was quickly and plentifully filled up with fresh men, not at all abating in courage for the loss they sustained, but even from their very anger gaining new force and resolution to go on with the war.

On the coin, Dodonean Zeus faces left, wearing oak wreath; Θ and monogram below. On the reverse, BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΠYPPOY, Dione seated left, holding staff in right hand and lifting her veil with her left; A in exergue.

Ancient Epirus was a region located in southeastern Europe, shared between Greece and Albania.

This, believe it or not, is a coin. It’s a coin of the polis of Olbia on the black sea coast, and it is a cast in the shape of a dolphin. In one of the most remarkable currencies of the ancient world, Olbia, literally the wealthy city, according to its name, chose to mint coins in a non-circular form for the first time since the invention of coins. The distinct form is generally attributed to the fact that the city of Olbia, located on the Black Sea, was at the fringes of the Greek world, therefore adapted Greek forms to fit their own needs. The large quantities of finds and the later appearance of dolphins on circular coins have convinced scholars that these were used in exchange.

The symbolism of the dolphin is believed to be religious, since the city held a large temple to Apollo Delphinios, Apollo of the Dolphins, which is also connected to the Apollo at Delphi. The image shown here, taken from a Greek vase, shows Apollo atop a tripod with his lyre, accompanied by dolphins.

The coins are undated through any kind of marking but are generally thought to be the product of the 5th or 4th centuries BCE. They are bronze and are generally a little more than an inch long.

The Nerdiest Award I've Ever Won

I collect coins. I organize my entire coin hoard into smaller collections. One of these smaller collections I’ve mentioned here before, I call it The Symphony Set, and it is a collection of coins from all over the world which depict musical instruments, composers, or performers in their designs.

I belong to the NGC Collectors Society. In short, NGC professionally appraises rare coins, and encapsulates them into sonically sealed cases with embedded bar codes so collectors, buyers, and sellers, can catalog their coins. With any mobile device you can scan the embedded barcode and get instant information on that coin’s history and its value from NGC’s online database.

They also host many coin shows across the US, and online, featuring NGC registered collections. I’ve registered my Symphony Set with NGC. I’ve had it appraised and photographed and cataloged.

Each year NGC hosts an awards event where they give out plaques for various best in show collections. Awards are given based on the overall value and condition of a collection, any historical research attached to a collection, the difficulty in completing a certain set, etc.

And last week, my Symphony Set won the “Most Creative Set of the Year” award!

I should be receiving my plaque in the mail shortly. And they published all of the winners names in the current issue of Coin World magazine. For numismatists, it’s kind of a big deal.

Here’s the blurb NGC published re: my Symphony Set:

The theme of this collection is coins, medals and tokens relating to music in any way. The owner was drawn to this theme from a life-long love of music and his career as the owner of an independent recording label. Right now there are just six entries, and he describes the set as a work in progress. None of these are USA issues as yet (suggestion — the 2002 Tennessee quarter with its three musical instruments and sheet music), but there are splendid, high grade pieces to enjoy. Each is accompanied by excellent photos and informative text.

Here is the online gallery of my (I can now say it) award-winning Symphony Set collection, if you’d like to see it (click on the thumbnails to enlarge the pics)…

My Nerd Points™ have never been higher.

The famous ‘Elephant Denarius’ of Julius Caesar, struck in a traveling mint, c. 49-48 BC

On the obverse is a group of religious symbols including a simpulum (libation ladle), an aspergillum (implement used to sprinkle holy water), an axe surmounted by a wolf’s head, and an apex (hat). On the reverse, an Elephant advancing right, trampling on a horned serpent, CAESAR inscription below.

It is estimated that 22 million of these were minted, making them the third most minted coin of the Roman Republic and enough to pay eight legions. This coin coincides with the time when Caesar took gold and silver bouillon from the Temple of Saturn treasury in Rome, which is likely the source of the metals used in this coinage.

It has been suggested that Caesar’s use of the elephant was intended to humiliate the self-important Pompey, who had tried to associate himself with Alexander the Great by riding one of Alexander’s symbols, the elephant, in his triumphal procession. Pompey had embarrassingly failed to fit the beast into the city.

The religious symbols associate Caesar with his prestigious pontifical position as the head of Rome’s religious hierarchy. Caesar had been Pontifex Maximus since 63 BC.