The politics and philosophy of ancient Greece formed the foundations of Western civilization. Its coins were also heavily influential, both because they fueled commerce and because they provided a visual record of the rich history of the region. Today, Ancient Coins from Greek city-states offer collectors their greatest opportunity to enjoy a physical connection with this ancient past. As you grow your collection, be sure to consider picking up one of our Greek Drachms or Tetradrachms.
Ancient Greek Coins are among the most popular options for MCM collectors, as they give them the opportunity to connect with the roots of Western civilization. Our selection features coins that remain in remarkable condition for their age, with their designs still intact.
The ancient Greeks credited Lydia with the invention of coins about six hundred years before the birth of Christ. The Greeks learned from them quickly and produced their first coins in Aegina shortly thereafter. These first Greek coins were struck from silver and bore a turtle design, which represented the wealth of the city that came from its extensive maritime trade. Due to a need to pay mercenaries, other cities in Greece followed suit. Initially, coins were used only within limited areas, because coin values varied tremendously from one city-state to another. As the influence of certain city-states grew, so too did the acceptance of their coins. In fact, Athenian silver tetradrachms spread to Egypt, Palestine, Bactria, and Arabia.
Silver was the most common metal used for ancient Greek coins, but it was not the only one. Bronze, copper alloy, electrum, and gold were also used. Early coins were stamped on only one side. Until the Hellensitic Period, which began with Alexander’s death in 323 BC, barter remained popular and coins were mainly minted in high values, equivalent to about an average citizen’s weekly wage. That changed after Alexander’s death, and smaller denominations became commonplace. Over time, coins largely replaced barter as a medium of exchange.
The designs of the oldest Greek coins typically feature symbols of cities. These include everything from gods to animals. One of the most famous among them is the Athenian owl, which the city struck onto its tetradrachms. Other well-known examples include the labyrinth on the coins of Knossos and Pegasus, who appeared on Corinthian coins. Other frequently featured symbols included musical instruments, plants, and flowers. As the Classical period reached its end, political leaders had begun using coins as a means of propaganda and spreading influence, often using the currency to associate themselves with heroes and gods.
Tetradrachms from the Greek Kingdom of Thrace are especially popular. These coins share a fascinating history. When Alexander died, he left no clear heir, so his kingdom was peacefully divided among five generals. Four replaced Alexander’s image with their own on their coins, while Lysimachus kept Alexander’s image in hopes that this would give him a chance to rule all of the land over which Alexander had reigned.