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Your First 25 Greek Gold and Electrum Coins (Prices have changed since 1997)

While the area of Greek Gold and Electrum coinage is not nearly as vast as that of Silver coinage, it is still quite extensive. The biggest problem in selecting 25 coins for this article is the escalating prices after the first 15 or so examples. The collection of Greek Gold and Electrum can very easily become the sport of kings. In more than one case I've chosen several coins from a single city. The reason for this is not only the importance of the coin selected but also the fact that they are the more abundant and the most affordable.

  1. ASIA MINOR TYPELESS; 650-550 BC, 1/6th Stater or Hecte - So far as I am concerned this issue is the beginning of coinage. It represents but little more than the reconstitution of gold nuggets into measured forms. This series starts with a full stater but the more commonly encountered are the 1/3rd and 1/6th stater denominations. Other than the weight the only real indication of human intervention is the rough incuse on the reverse, though the obverse could have striations or a smooth surface. These coins cost between $1,000-1,500 each.
  2. LYDIA; 650-561 BC, 1/3rd Stater - The pre-Croesus third staters of Lydia have a powerful lion's head on the obverse with an incuse reverse. On the lion's forehead is what is described as a nose wart. Personally I feel this is a rising sun. These coins were quite scarce until the discovery of the Lydian coins several years ago. For the moment VF and even EF specimens are quite available and represent an excellent opportunity for the collector to obtain an important coin for a modest price. VFs cost about $1,000-1,400 with EFs running up to $2,500.
  3. CROESUS; 560-546 BC, Gold Stater, 8.09g - A gold coin of Croesus is a necessity for any collection of Greek Gold because with its silver counterpart it represents the first inter-related bi-metallic coinage system. Once again because of the Lydian Hoard these wonderful coins are available for the moment. If the collector has the money, a Heavy Gold Stater of 10.8g is optimum as this coin was definitely struck by Croesus himself and is 30 or 40 times rarer than the Lightweight issues of 8.09g. The Lightweight issues can be very sharply struck with beautiful lustrous surfaces. Some of these coins though were issued by Darius after the defeat of Croesus and before he instituted his own type. Lightweight staters cost between $6,000-12,000 depending upon condition.
  4. ACHAEMENID, DARIUS I; 510-486 BC, Gold Daric - The first Darics which were struck by Darius I can be differentiated from their later counterparts by the fact that the kneeling running king is shooting a bow and has no spear or knife in his other hand. While there aren't many of these known, probably less than 20, they don't sell for prices relative to their rarity or importance with an example recently selling for only $6,000 in Extremely Fine condition.
  5. ACHAEMENID; 486-330 BC, Gold Daric - These Darics which depict the kneeling running king with a bow in one hand and a dagger or spear in the other, were issued from the end of Darius' reign until the empire was defeated by Alexander III The Great. These pieces vary tremendously in artistic quality and strike but generally cost between $900-2,000.
  6. PHOCAIA; 500-330 BC, Hecte - One should definitely select one of the many types issued by the City of Phocaia from its nearly two centuries of activity. While the coins all have incuse reverses, they vary from archaic griffins heads to animals, heads of Hercules and sweet female profiles. Prices range from $500-2,000 with exceptional pieces of course costing more.
  7. CYZICUS; Before 550-400 BC, Electrum Stater - This city issued an absolutely remarkable group of 16 plus gram electrum staters. It is thought that every year a distinctly different type was produced. The great range and variety of these types reinforces that theory in spades. Other than the bolder type appearance of these immense coins, the quadruple incuse on the reverse, the ever present tunny fish (better known today as chicken of the sea) is the unifying factor of this coinage. It is impossible to describe the types because they include everything from mythological beasts and satyrs to mythological scenes and portraits of the gods. It is possible to obtain one of these staters in VF condition for about $8000 with About EF's costing $10,000 and up.
  8. LESBOS, MYTILENE; 500-350 BC, Hecte - These issues are somewhat parallel to those of Phocaia except these issues always have a reverse design. In the early issues it was incuse but later developed into a second head in relief, which was set into a shallow incuse square. These hectes cost between $600-2,000.
  9. LAMPSAKOS; 530-500 BC, Electrum Stater - These powerful EL staters portray the forepart of a winged horse with feathers at the back of his body and a bunch of grapes before. The reverse is a forepart incuse. Of late (the last 4 years) this issue has been appearing on the market for about $10,000-12,000. I think they are a part of a hoard that has been found long ago but is being put out at the rate of just a few coins a year.
  10. SYRACUSE; 405-380 BC, 100 Litrai - This coin bears the head of Artemis on the obverse and Hercules strangling the Nemean Lion on the reverse, weighing 5.8g. This coin represents a value equal to two Silver decadrachms. These little coins for the rendition of the reverse are considered one of the masterpieces of Greek art. Some of these coins are signed by Kimon and Euainetos though some equally wonderful dies are unsigned. These coins must have been as highly prized by the Syracusans as they are by collectors today. The evidence of this is the fact that so many of these coins were struck with rusty dies which indicates that the dies were stored for a number of years and re-used. Probably as in the case of the silver decadrachms by popular demand. Examples cost from $8,000-20,000 and up.
  11. SYRACUSE; 405-380 BC, 50 Litrai - This coin depicts the river-god Anapos on the obverse and a free running horse on the reverse. Issued with the 100 litrai this 50 litrai coin represents one silver decadrachm and when not misstruck, as often is the case, they can be excitingly beautiful. Examples cost from $3,000-10,000.
  12. SYRACUSE, HIERON II; 275-215 BC, Gold Drachm - This issue portrays Persephone on the obverse and a racing quadriga on the reverse. The king who issued this beautiful coin, Hieron II, was one of the most remarkable of all Greek kings. Said to be a wise and just ruler, his reign lasted an amazing 60 years. As usual, he left a totally unworthy heir, Hieronymos, to take his place. This coin commonly comes in Mint condition and costs about $8,000. Die rust is a frequent inhibitor to the beauty of these coins.
  13. PHILIP II; 359-336 BC, Gold Stater - This coin beautifully depicts Apollo on the obverse with a racing biga on the reverse. The artist's quality of this coin ranges from breathtaking to mediocre. Though Philip only struck his coins in Greece, this issue is quite abundant. VF examples sell for about $1,200 and EF for $2,000 with Mint State costing $3,000-6,000.
  14. ALEXANDER III THE GREAT; 336-323 BC, Gold Stater - This coin need not be described as all collectors know what it looks like. It is the most politically important and most commonest Greek gold coin. Alexander conquered the world, he converted much of his loot into gold staters, silver tetradrachms and drachms. When you hold one of these gold staters in your hand, you are holding a treasure of Alexander and the oil that made his war machine move across the world. Examples in VF cost $1,200-1,400, in EF $2,000 with Mint State costing $2,500-3,500.
  15. ALEXANDER III THE GREAT; 336-323 BC, Distater - The double staters of Alexander are scarce but have been available lately. VF examples sell for about $6,000-8,000 with Mint State pieces costing between $20,000-25,000.
  16. PHILIP III; 323-316 BC, Gold Stater - Gold staters issued by Alexander's half brother are frequently more beautiful than the issues of Alexander. Frequently I have selected a stunning Gold Stater from a lot and have been disappointed when I see the name Philip instead of Alexander on the reverse. Even though these coins are rarer than those of Alexander, they are less desirable as this man accomplished nothing. These coins cost the same or slightly less than those of Alexander.
  17. LYSIMACHUS; 323-281 BC, Gold Stater - These staters depict Alexander III The Great for the first time in history. He is deified for he wears a diadem and the horn of Zeus Ammon. Style varies from a compact high relief portrait to a rather low relief with a spread design. The early high relief portraits are the most valued costing up to $12,000.
  18. PHARAOH NEKTANEBOS II; 359-343 BC, Gold Stater, 8.07g - This coin is highly important because it was the only coin struck by dynastic Egypt in the 4,000 years of its existence. While the obverse type is totally Greek, depicting a prancing horse, the reverse showing a heart and wind pipe with a hieroglyphic legend NEPHER NUB (Good Gold) is totally Egyptian. This coin is scarce to rare with prices for an EF specimen running between $6,000-9,000.
  19. EGYPT, PTOLEMY II; 285-246 BC, Pentadrachm - Ptolemy II issued a forceful series of Gold pentadrachms weighing 17.8g that bore the portrait of his great father who was the founder of the dynasty, Ptolemy I. Because of the tremendous quantity that must have been issued at the time, these coins are still abundant and cost only about $6,000-7,000 for an EF specimen.
  20. EGYPT, PTOLEMY III; 246-221, Octodrachm - This amazing dynastic issue portrays the issuers father, Ptolemy II and mother, Arsinoe II, on the obverse with his grandparents, Ptolemy I and Berenike I, on the reverse. In addition to the Octodrachms, Gold Tetradrachms, Didrachms and Drachms were also issued. The Octodrachms frequently came in EF condition though the hair lock over the ear of each of the Ptolemies normally comes poorly struck. This coin in EF condition sells from $12,000-15,000.
  21. EGYPT, PTOLEMY V; 205-180 BC, Octodrachm - The immense octodrachms of Ptolemy V are 27+ grams of pure gold. On their obverse they portray Arsinoe II with a "K" in the back of her head. The reverse carries an overflowing double cornucopia. Frequently Arsinoe of the "K" types, as they are known, is portrayed with a bulging eye. These magnificent coins are the commonest of all Egyptian gold. They attest to the great wealth of the land of Egypt, which is why it was such an important place to control. Due to their abundance, Mint State examples cost only about $10,000-15,000.
  22. COSON; 43 BC Gold Stater - These gold staters depict an eagle holding a wreath on the obverse with a Roman consul and 2 lectors walking on the reverse. The reverse is copied from the Republican Denarii issues of Brutus. Quite a few of these coins have appeared on the market in the past year in Mint State condition. They sell for about $4,000.
  23. CYRENE; 322-313 BC, Gold Stater - The obverse of this issue portraying a quadriga prancing with a partial solar disk above and a Zeus Ammon on the reverse is one of the most beautiful coins of the Greeks. To read the description it wouldn't sound so, but in fact the rendering of the design is what makes this coin as wonderful as it is. VF examples cost $3,500-4,500.
  24. CARTHAGE; 350-320 BC, Gold Stater - This issue features a head of Tanit on the obverse and a standing horse on the reverse. These coins are remarkable in that they have absolutely no legend on the obverse or reverse. They are struck in high relief and while they are of exceptional quality, the face of Tanit has a very Punic look. Generally found in EF these coins cost about $5,000.
  25. CARTHAGE; 320-270 BC, Electrum Gold Stater - Struck in somewhat lower relief than their gold counterparts, these coins also bear no legends but have varying combinations of dots on the exergue line of the reverse. With the use of a great book, Carthaginian Gold and EL coins by G. Jenkins & Lewis, one can determine the karat Gold of the coin by these dots. The front hairline of Tanit is usually flatly struck even in Mint State examples. EL staters can be purchased for $800-1,000 in VF and about $2,000 in EF.

Copyright @ 1997 by Harlan J. Berk, Ltd. - http://www.harlanjberk.com - E-Mail: info@harlanjberk.com

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