At Pax Romana, numismatics is one our specialities – and passions!
Coin collecting is a hobby that extends back to antiquity, originating with the Ancient Greek. Notable early enthusiasts include the emperor Augustus himself, amassing an extensive collection of coinage and developing a recorded habit of gifting old and exotic coins to friends and courtiers to mark special occasions.
The main determinants of a coin’s value are its rarity, weight, material composition, and form (for example, gold coins can fetch in the thousands, compared to a bronze coin which can fetch around the hundred mark). When considering ancient examples, it is important to remember that they were made by hand, and as such, examples range in the quality of their production. Look for coins that have a well-centred and clear design, with all intended elements visible, as these tend to achieve higher prices and hold their value.
Rarity is much more difficult to ascertain, and can change with new discoveries such as those found en masse in hordes. As such, we recommend considering other factors first before rarity when building your collection.
With so many coins, deciding what to collect can be intimidating. As such, we also suggest that you refine your search to a period, ruler, or artistic style you are particularly attracted to. Of course, it is equally valid if you have a wide range of interests and simply want to collect what you like instead!
Ancient Greek Coins
The Ancient Greeks produced a multitude of coinage, with examples ranging across materials, states, and periods. As such, there is a lot to collect, at a variety of price points!
The Greeks made coins in a variety of weights, corresponding to their value, including drachms, didrachms, and tetradrachms, with the largest being the decadrachm and weighing just over 40 grams. Those weighing in at the lower end of this scale, such as the drachm (around 4 grams) are a great place to start for the beginner collector, especially those made in metals such as bronze.
We have a wide selection of Greek bronze drachms available in our gallery collection, particularly those from Apollonia, an independent Greek trading colony formed around 600 BC by Corinthian immigrants. As a vibrant trading post that would later prove important as a staging ground for the Roman army, an Apollonian coin holds an immense amount of history. Many in our collection bear the gorgoneion, or the head of the gorgon, a protective symbol also common on amulets of the period. This is particularly true of the Corinthians who substantiated Apollonia’s populace.
At a similar price point, we also have several drachm dating to the reign of Alexander III Macedonia, also known infamously as Alexander the Great. These coins bear depictions of Zeus on one side, and then a depiction of Herakles wearing the Nemean Lion’s pelt on the obverse.
If you are interested in starting your Roman collection, try, for instance, an imperial denarius. A denarius is a silver coin, weighing around 6 grams. By the end of the Roman empire in around 27 BC, an unskilled labourer or soldier would be paid about one denarius a day, an inflation of 300% compared to its value at its first striking. Likewise, the denarius’ silver content would drop greatly – said to be merely a copper coin with a ‘silver wash’ by the reign of Gallienus.
In our gallery collection, we count numerous examples, including those depicting classic laureate heads of emperors such as Septimus Severus and Caracalla – all at an accessible price point. Ours mostly date from around 210-220 AD, and as such still maintain a not-insignificant silver content for their price point.