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Ancient Greek Coins

Greek: Αρχαια Ελληνικα Νομισματα
First introduced: 7th Century BC
Denominations: Tetartemorioi, Obol and Drachm

Ancient Greek coin - Athens Owl.

Ancient Greek coin – Athens Owl.

The Ancient Greeks were among the first people in the world to use a coinage system starting in the 7th century BC. The central denomination of this coinage system was the drachm (meaning “a handful”) which derived its name from the fact that six obol (Prior to the coinage system metal sticks were used and were referred to as obol) were usually how much someone could hold in their hand.

Coins were first issued in Ionia, Asia Minor by Lydians to pay Greek mercenaries for their services who wanted to be paid in precious metal. These coins were very labor intensive and were made of gold and silver, which were highly prized and abundant in that area. With the advancement of technology in producing coins they eventually caught on with the ancient Greek world. Over half of the two thousand Greek city-states began minting their own coins. All coins were hand made and usually depicted a portrait of the cities patron god or goddess or a legendary hero on one side with the other side depicting a recognizable symbol of the city and the cities name written as well. During the Hellenistic era, when the Greek culture spread to parts of North Africa and the Middle-East, the Greek-kingdoms began minting coins with a portrait of the Kings themselveson them with the name of the king inscribed on them instead of the Greek-kingdom name.

The most commonly used coin in the classical era was the Athenian tetradrachm (“four drachmae”) which depicted the goddess Athena on the front and owl on the back. This is where the saying “an owl to Athens” comes from, which refers to something that is plentiful in supply. During the 5th and 4th century BC it was believed that a skilled worker would be paid a daily wage of one drachma and a juror would get paid half a drachm. In Aristophanes play “Wasps” he mentions that the daily half-drachm of a juror was just enough for a family of three to live on for the year. Today’s historians and economists estimate the value of one drachm in ancient Greece to be equal to US$42.

Famous coins of ancient Greece:

Ancient Greek Coins for Auction:

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