Silver coins were the backbone of ancient commerce, from the early Greek city states to the end of the East Roman Empire of Byzantium. Today, these coins are highly desired for the physical connections they provide to ancient civilizations and historical eras, rather than their precious metal content.
Julius Caesar. Augustus. Nero. Hadrian. These names still resonate throughout history. Roman coins have been coveted for centuries for their physical connection to these names, and more. The appeal of Roman coins goes beyond the ancient coins collector, to historians and people who have become fascinated with the Roman Empire through books and movies.
The Roman denarius is likely the world's most popular ancient silver coin. It was introduced in 211 BC as a part of a new Roman coinage system, and was minted for nearly 500 years.
Many collectors of Roman silver coins weren't coin collectors at all, to begin with. Anyone with a passing interest in Roman history equates “Roman money” and “denarius”. When these people discovered that you could still buy a real Roman silver coin at a modest price, they were inspired to purchase one. Perhaps a Nero, Claudius, or Vespasian denarius was their first coin. Perhaps it was the first one that caught their eye at a coin convention, regardless of reign.
Once they discover the many different types of Roman silver coins, some featuring a Caesar they hadn't heard of, the denarius collecting begins in earnest.
The classical silver Athenian tetradrachm is the coin most people envision when they think of ancient Greek coins, but nearly all of the many hundreds of Greek city states also minted coins bearing their respective symbols.
Ancient Greek coins are generally larger and thicker than Roman ones, and far older. Greek city states began minting precious metal coins in the Sixth century BC, shortly after the idea originated in the ancient kingdom of Lydia. The last ancient Greek silver coins were minted in the First century BC, prior to the region being absorbed into the Roman Empire.
Ancient Greek history is divided into three eras. The Archaic Era stretched from the origin of the city states in the Sixth century BC to the final expulsion of Persian armies in 480 BC. The Classical Era followed the Archaic, running from 480 BC to Alexander the Great's conquest of Greece in 330 BC. Alexander's empire ushered in the Hellenic Era, which lasted until approximately 146 BC. The marks the point where Rome had basically assimilated Greece, and Roman coins replaced Greek ones.
Each of these eras produced a distinctive style of coin. The prices on the best and rarest examples of each era make them unobtainable for everyone but museums and billionaires. Common, worn coins can be had for prices comparable to Roman coinage.
The eastern half of the sprawling Roman Empire, and its center of power for roughly 1,000 years after the fall of Rome, the Byzantine Empire made a unique contribution to human civilization, history, and culture. Its gold and bronze coins are prized by collectors for their rich history and widespread use across the ancient world. The Byzantines were heavily involved in trade, including along the Silk Road. Its coins have even been found in China!
Though the empire flourished during Late Antiquity, as it began to decay, the state supposedly lost economic control long before it was overrun by the Ottoman Empire. This was precipitated by Byzantium losing the ability to regulate the flow of precious metals in and out of the country, and perhaps even lost control of its minting facilities.
Ancient Holy Land Coins
Other ancient coins that hold special importance include the famous Shekel of Tyre, which was used in ancient Jerusalem to pay the temple tax due to its finer purity than regular coins. It is rumored the shekel of Tyre was the type of silver coin paid to Judas to betray Jesus. In a similar vein, the tiny “widow's mite” of Biblical fame is popular among Holy Land coin collectors. Much like the denarius attracts non-collectors, the widow's mite holds a special place among Christians.
Every ancient coin that Gainesville Coins carries has been certified genuine and graded by the highly trusted Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC). We are always expanding our ancient coins for sale, so check back often.