Coin of Kanishka

Gandharan (modern Pakistan), ca. 130 AD

Diameter 9/16 in (1.4 cm)

The Great Kushan rulers minted these gold coins in the second and early third centuries. They follow a Roman weight standard, and the rulers present themselves in relation to a range of Near Eastern and South Asian deities, such as the Shiva on the reverse of Vasudeva’s coin.

Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Very Rare Greek Coin - One Of The Largest Known

This is the finest of three known Greek silver tetradrachms of this rare type from Eretria, Euboea (map) struck circa 525-500 BC, with a very large diameter of 36 mm. It shows a bull with it’s hind hoof raised to touch its nose. A swallow sits on his back with an E in retrograde below. The reverse has an octopus in an incuse square.

Eretria counts among the first cities in Greece proper to strike their own silver coins along with Athens, Chalcis and Karystos. Analysis of several hoards has shown that the earliest coins struck in Eretria were contemporary with the first Athenian Owl coins.

The representation of a cow recalls the myth of Io. The young woman, after the birth of her son Epaphos by Zeus, was changed into a cow by Hera who wanted to take revenge on her unfaithful husband. According to one tradition, Epaphos was born in Euboea. As for the octopus, it probably alludes to the city’s maritime activities.

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.

External image

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.


New Portrait for the Coinage of the UK

The Royal Mint has unveiled the 5th Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, which depicts the monarch facing right, wearing the George VI Diamond Diadem. There have been struck about 5,000 coins already with this new portrait, in a conmemorative series named “Britannia” (shown in the last picture) and in proof series of the common currency of the UK.
The engraver in charge of the design of this new portrait is Jody Clark, who won a competition from the Royal Mint in order to have the honour of depicting the monarch for her latest portrait.
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.


Roman Skull with a Charon’s Obol, c. 2nd Century AD

Charon’s Obol is the coin placed in or on the mouth of a dead person before burial. Greek and Latin literary sources explain it as a payment or a bribe for Charon, the ferryman who conveyed souls across the River Styx, which divided the world of the living from the world of the dead. The placement of the coin on or in the mouth has also been explained as a seal to protect the deceased’s soul or to prevent it from returning.

In early mythology, the coin was supposed to be an obol denomination, however over the years other types of coins were used as well. Sometimes fake coins make from thin metal foil was substituted, like this example.

The coin placed in the skull above is Roman, specifically an Antoninus Pius dupondius (example). In Latin, Charon’s obol is sometimes called a viaticum, which in everyday usage means “provision for a journey” (from via, “way, road, journey”), encompassing food, money and other supplies.

The custom is primarily associated with the ancient Greeks and Romans, though it is also found in the ancient Near East. In Western Europe, a similar usage of coins in burials occurs in regions inhabited by Celts of the Gallo-Roman, Hispano-Roman and Romano-British cultures, and among the Germanic peoples of late antiquity and the early Christian era, with sporadic examples into the early 20th century.


One of the first coins to be struck in Britain and the only proof of the existence of a little known Celtic king

This is a very rare Celtic silver King Andoco unit and is one of the first coins to be struck in Britain, dating circa 10 BC - 10 AD. Andoco is only known from his coinage, such as the present example and is thought to have been either a sub-king to Tasciovanus or a rival to his throne. Tasciovanus was a king of the Catuvellauni tribe before the Roman conquest of Britain and, like Andoco, is also only known via his coinage.

Obverse: Celticized male head left; ‘A’ behind; all within interlaced linear and pelleted border. Reverse: Pegasus flying left. The legend around reading: A[ND]OCO


Extremely rare Continental silver dollar. In fact it’s so rare that only two of them are known to exist (there are others in pewter and brass). This was made sometime in 1777 when Congress was debating the switch from paper currency to hard coinage, but they never had enough silver on hand to make it a feasible project.

It’s thought that the design was done by Franklin. The top image has the Latin inscription Fugio with the English translation of “Mind Your Business”. A better translation might be “time flies, so mind your business” (which is why an image of a sundial is also engraved on that side).

The other side features the motto “American States: We Are One”, with 13 interlocked links, representing each of the colonies (each of whom is named on one of the links. 

This coin sold for $1.4 million last week. 

Extremely Rare Greek Cerberus Coin, c. 500-450 BC

This is an electrum stater from the city of Cyzicus (aka Kyzikos) in the region of Mysia (map), with the very rare depiction of the hellhound Cerberus (with just two heads). He is depicted above a tunny fish with a quadripartite incuse square on the reverse. Cerberus appears with some frequency on Roman provincial coins, yet rarely on Greek coins. In Greek and Roman mythology Cerberus guards the entrance of the Greek underworld to prevent the dead from escaping and the living from entering. He is best known for having been captured by Heracles in his twelfth and final labor, which was by far his most dangerous. After delivering the hellhound to King Eurystheus, he then returned to chain the creature at the gates of Hades, which he continued to guard.

Cerberus is typically described as having three heads of wild dogs, though often with just two, as here on this coin; but as with most every aspect of Greek mythology there are various traditions and little agreement, such that Cerberus is described as possessing somewhere between one and one hundred heads. He is said to have had the claws of a lion, a tail in the form of a serpent, and his mane sometimes is described as being composed of a great mass of serpents. 

It has been suggested that this type coin was struck in reference, or homage, to Cimmerium (Kimmerikon), a city on the southern shore of the Cimmerian Bosphorus that earlier had been called Cerberion. The reason being that this city would have been a familiar destination for the intrepid Cyzicene merchants. However, Cyzicus was particularly attached to the story of the Argonautic expedition – especially to Heracles’ involvement – and to the goddess Persephone, who Appian says had received Cyzicus as a marriage gift from Zeus. Since Cerberus is associated with both Heracles and Persephone, this type perhaps is best seen as part of a larger display of designs associated with those deities.