Coins

Here we display a selection of coins from different areas of study in order to give an idea of the immense range involved, both in time and distance, and the historical connections of the different pieces shown.

 

The Ancient World

Mazaios Stater revMazaios Stater obv

Persian Empire, Achaemenid Satrapy of Cilicia, Satrap Mazaios, 361-334BC, AR Stater.
Mazaios (Mazaeus) was the penultimate Satrap of Cilicia, his successor being expelled by Alexander the Great. Mazaios was a Persian noble and one time governor of Babylon. He led an army that in 331BC attempted to prevent Alexander crossing the Tigris, but Alexander outflanked him and he withdrew to join the main Persian army under Darius III. At the decisive Battle of Gaugamela he commanded the right flank of Darius's army, which suffered a severe defeat. He died in 328BC.
The obverse shows the local Cilician god Baaltars or Baal of Tarsus with an eagle.
Photos © Graham Kirby 2015-2016

 

Apollodotos Drachm obvApollodotos Drachm rev

Indo-Greeks, Apollodotos I, c.180-160BC or c.174-165BC, AR Drachm, Indian standard.
Little is known of this king, or exactly over what territory he ruled, but his coins are found in Punjab, Sindh and Gujarat. Even the dates of his rule are a subject of argument. Coins of this type are particularly plentiful, and as the types of Greek coinage are generally religious in nature, it has been suggested that the elephant represents the white elephant that appeared in a dream to Queen Maya, the mother of Buddha, and the bull represents Nandi, the bull of Shiva, thus combining references to both Buddhism and Hinduism. The inscriptions are in Greek on one side and in Karosthi on the other. The meaning is the same on both: King Apollodotos the Saviour.
Photos © Angela Grant 2014-2015

 

Nerva Denarius obvNerva Denarius rev

Roman Republic, P. Licinius Nerva, 106BC, AR Denarius.
The reverse shows voting in the comitium in Rome.
Photos © Angela Grant 2015

 

Cunobelin stater obvCunobelin stater rev

Ancient Britain, Trinovantes and Catuvellauni, Cunobelin, AV Stater, 'wild horse' type, mint of Camulodunum (Colchester).
Cunobelinos, son of Tasciovanos, ruled much of southern Britain between the end of the first century BC and c.40AD.
The Welsh know him as Cynfelyn, and Shakespeare as Cymbeline.
He ruled the Trinovantes from Colchester, and the Catuvellauni from St Albans.
His son Caractacus (Welsh: Caradoc), by invading the territory of the Atrebates and ejecting their king, Verica, precipitated the Claudian invasion of 43AD.
Photos © Angela Grant 2005-2015.

 

Herod Agrippa Prutot obvHerod Agrippa Prutot rev

Kingdom of Judea, Herod Agrippa I, 37-44AD, AE Prutah.
Agrippa was the son of Aristobulus IV and Berenice, and grandson of Herod the Great. He was named in honour of the Roman statesman Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. On the murder of his father he was sent to Rome by his grandfather, where he made an injudicious remark looking forward to Tiberius's death and the accession of Caligula, whereupon Tiberius had him thrown into prison. On Tiberius's death in 37AD Caligula had him released and gave him a chain of gold equal in weight to the iron chain he had in prison. Caligula granted him as a kingdom the territory that his uncle Philip the Tetrarch had held plus Abila. In 39AD, on the banishment of Herod Antipas, he was also granted Galilee and Peraea. For his help to Claudius in securing his accession after the murder of Caligula in 41AD, Agrippa was also granted Judea and Samaria. He began to refortify Jerusalem but did not finish because of Claudius's suspicions, which were also aroused by Agrippa courting his neighbouring rulers. After Passover in 44AD Agrippa went to Caesarea for games in honour of Claudius, where an owl perched above his head. This ill-omen quickly preceded his death, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 12.
Photos © Angela Grant 2017.

 

Severus Denarius obvSeverus Denarius rev

Roman Empire, Septimius Severus, 193-211AD, AR Denarius of 210-211AD, commemorating his expedition into Caledonia.
Severus landed with his army in 208AD, and proceeded north to strengthen Hadrian's Wall, recapture the area between that and the Antonine Wall, and to fortify that wall. He then took his army north into Caledonia, and, despite guerilla tactics by the Caledonians, in 210AD exacted an agreement from them agreeing that Rome should have control of the Central Lowlands. In the following year the Caledonians rose in revolt, and Severus planned a punitive expedition intending to slaughter as many as he could find. Before he got far, he fell seriously ill, withdrew south, and died in Eboracum (York). His son, Caracalla, continued the fight, but soon withdrew to the Antonine Wall. Not long after the Romans gave up the whole territory north of Hadrian's Wall, and never attempted an expedition into Caledonia again. A scarce coin.
Photos © Angela Grant 2013-2015

 

Alexandria Troas AE obvAlexandria Troas AE rev

Roman Empire, Quasi-autonomous provincial coinage, Troas, Alexandria Troas, civic issue as colonia, 2nd-3rd Cent. AD, AE21.
Alexandria Troas was an ancient Greek city in north-western Asia Minor. Originally founded as Sigeia, it was refounded and enlarged in 306BC by Antigonus the One-Eyed of Macedon under the name of Antigonia Troas. In 301BC Antigonus renamed it Alexandria Troas in memory of Alexander the Great. In 188BC it was declared a 'free and autonomous city'. It prospered under the Romans and was made a Colonia by Augustus under the name of Colonia Alexandria Augusta Troas. Augustus, Hadrian, and Herod Atticus contributed to its embellishment, the latter giving it the aqueduct that still exists. Constantine the Great considered it as a possible site for his new capital, before deciding on Byzantium instead. It is unclear exactly when it was destroyed, but the remains cover some 990 acres with the walls clearly visible.
Photos © Angela Grant 2017.

 

The Medieval World

Aethelred II obvAethelred II rev

Kingdom of England, AR Penny (late small cross), Aethelred II 'the Redeless', 978-1016, Moneyer: Dreng of Lincoln.
Usually, but not correctly, referred to as 'Aethelred the Unready', a mistranslation of 'unræd' meaning 'ill-advised'. He came to the throne under the cloud of the murder of his brother, Edward the Martyr, and his kingdom was harried by repeated attacks by the Danes, who were bought off by the payment of tribute or 'danegeld'. His reign ended in a war against Sweyn Forkbeard, the Danish king, and Cnut, Sweyn's successor, Cnut being the final victor, uniting the Crowns of England and Denmark.
Photos © Angela Grant 2013-2015

 

Michael VII histamenon nomisma obvMichael VII histamenon nomisma rev

Byzantine Empire, Michael VII Doukas, 1071-1078, AV Histamenon Nomisma, Class II.
Michael was born c.1050, the eldest son of Constantine X and his wife Eudokia. He should have gained the throne on his father's death in 1067, but showed little interest in politics and his mother and her new husband Romanos IV took control of the state. When Romanos was captured by the Seljuks in 1071, Michael was raised to the throne by his uncle John Doukas assisted by his tutor, whist his mother was packed off to a monastery. As an emperor Michael proved disastrous. Militarily incapable, he allowed the empire to lose Bari, its last stronghold in Italy, to the Normans, areas of Anatolia to the Seljuk Turks, and was faced with an attempt by the Bulgarians to resurrect their former state in the Balkans. Financially he was equally incompetent, and his devaluation of the currency led him to be awarded the nickname Parapinakes (minus a quarter). He was finally removed by revolts of his army commanders in both the Balkans and Anatolia, and allowed to retire to a monastery. He later became Metropolitan of Ephesus, and died c.1090.
Photos © Angela Grant 2013-2017.

 

Jerusalem Baldwin Denier obvJerusalem Baldwin Denier rev

Kingdom of Jerusalem, Baldwin III, 1143-1163, Bill Denier, rough series, mule 1/2var.
Baldwin was the son of Fulk of Anjou and Melisende of Jerusalem, and grandson of Baldwin II. On Fulk's death in 1143 Baldwin was 13, and was crowned jointly with his mother. By 1152 relations between Baldwin and his mother had become strained, and the Haute Cour agreed that the kingdom should be divided in two, which satisfied neither party. Baldwin had the north, and within weeks of the division invaded the south and defeated his mother's forces. Melisende took refuge in the Tower of David, shown on the reverse of the coin. By 1154 Melisende had accepted the situation and the two became reconciled. Baldwin's reign was troubled by attacks from Nur ed-Din Mahmud, the Zengid ruler of Aleppo, which the Second Crusade was supposed to stop, but it failed. More successful were relations with the Byzantine Emperor Manuel, and Baldwin married Manuel's neice Theodora in 1158. Melisende died in 1161 and Baldwin in 1163, leaving Theodora a childless widow in Acre, which she had been granted in the marriage settlement. Baldwin was succeeded by his brother Amalric.
Photos © Angela Grant 2017.

 

Aquitaine Denier au Lion obvAquitaine Denier au Lion rev

Duchy of Aquitaine, AR Denier au Lion, in the name of 'Edward son of Henry, King of England'.
Edward was granted the Duchy by his father, Henry III, in 1249 but he received no income from it since Simon de Montfort was effective ruler and diverted the revenue to his own purposes. It was not until Simon returned to England in 1261, and was finally defeated in 1265, that Edward had any income from there. These coins were probably issued between 1265 and Henry's death in 1272, when Edward became Edward I of England.
Photos © Angela Grant 2015

 

Sicily Pierreale obvSicily Pierreale rev

Kingdom of Sicily, Peter I (III of Aragon), 1282-1285, AR Pierreale.
After the Sicilian Vespers of Easter Monday, 30 March 1282, when the inhabitants of Palermo rose up and slaughtered the hated French supporters of Charles of Anjou,
the Sicilians invited Pedro of Aragon, who was married to Constance, the heiress of the Hohenstaufen Kings of Sicily, to be their king.
On successfully occupying the island, the new king needed a coin to replace the Angevin Carlino.
The design of the Pierreale incorporates his titles and the red and gold shield of Aragon on one side, and Constance's titles and the black eagle of the Hohenstaufens on the other.
Photos © Angela Grant 2015

 

Prager Groshen obvPrager Groschen rev

Kingdom of Bohemia, Wenceslaus (Václav) II, 1278-1305, Prague Groshen.
Around 1300, silver was discovered in Kutná Hora, which enabled the reform of the state coinage, and the production of the large Prague Groshen, in imitation of the French Gros. Because of the high silver content the coin became very popular in medieval central Europe.
Photos © Angela Grant 2014-2015

 

Hugh IV Gros Grand obvHugh IV Gros Grand rev

Kingdom of Cyprus, Hugh IV, 1324-1359, AR Gros Grand, 2nd series 'cross at throat' type, no field mark.
The son of Guy, Constable of Cyprus (son of Hugh III of Cyprus), and Eschiva of Ibelin, Hugh de Lusignan succeeded his father as Constable of Cyprus in 1318, and later succeeded to the throne of Cyprus on the death of his uncle Henry II, since Henry II had no son. He was also crowned as titular king of Jerusalem, but showed little interest in affairs outside Cyprus, and prevented his son Peter from raising a new crusade to regain the lost territory. He resigned the throne to Peter in 1358, and died the following year.
The reverse has the Cross of Jerusalem in the centre, and the inscription, continuous from obverse to reverse, describes him as 'Hugh King of Jerusalem and Cyprus'.
Photos © Angela Grant 2013-2017.

 

The Modern World

Charles I crown obvCharles I crown rev

Kingdom of England, Charles I, 1625-1649, AV Crown, Tower Mint, i.m. Heart (1629-1630).
Charles was born in 1600, the second son of James I, who had united the crowns of England and Scotland in one person. His elder brother Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, having predeceased him, Charles came to the throne on the death of his father in 1625. At the time this coin was minted Charles's battles with Pariament were still verbal and legal rather than miltary. He suspended his second parliament in 1629 for its provocative actions, but then had to rely on irregular means to raise money. His imposition of Ship Money, although accepted narrowly by the courts as legitmate, was extremely unpopular, and the revival of other obsolete and dubious methods of raising taxation seemed set to antagonise his subjects rather than encourage their support. The culmination of these policies was eventually to plunge the country into civil war. His defeat in this war resulted in his trial for High Treason, his execution, and the declaration of a republic.
The reverse of this coin has been double struck. The "V" in the field on the obverse has been recut, the original cut being at an odd angle to the axis of the die.
Photos © Angela Grant 2013-2017

 

Potosi 8 Reales obvPotosi 8 Reales rev

Spanish America, Carlos IV, 1788-1808, AR Eight Reales (Spanish Dollar), 1795, Mint: Potosi (Bolivia).
A late example of the Spanish 'Peso de ocho' or 'Piece of eight' famed in many a pirate tale. Because of their fineness and consistency these coins became a standard currency throughout the world, and became the basis for many later world currencies, including South American Pesos, US and Canadian Dollars, the Japanese Yen, and the Chinese Yuan.
Photos © Angela Grant 2013-2015

 

Sardinia 10lire obvSardinia 10lire rev

Kingdom of Sardinia, Carlo Alberto, 1831-1849, AV Ten Lire, 1833, Mint: Genoa.
Carlo Alberto was raised to the rank of Lieutenant of Dragoons in the French Army of Napoleon in 1814, but on the latter's defeat, Carlo Alberto returned to Turin. He was sent to fight under Louis XVIII in Spain where he distinguished himself at the Battle of Trocadero in 1823. Despite his liberal inclinations, on succeeding to the throne he put down Mazzini's revolt of 1833, but then, following the revolutions of 1848, he declared war on Austria, but was defeated at Custoza in 1848, and again at Novara in 1849. At this he abdicated in favour of his son, Victor Emmanuel, and went into exile in Portugal, where he died the same year.
Photos © Angela Grant 2014-2015

 

The World of Islam

Tabaristan Sulayman Hemidrachm obvTabaristan Sulayman Hemidrachm rev

Tabaristan, Abbasid Governors, Sulayman ibn Musa, AH171-173 (787-789AD), AR Hemidrachm or Tabari Dirhem, dated 137PYE (788AD).
Tabaristan, south of the Caspian Sea and separated from the rest of Iran by high mountains, was left behind as an independent enclave when the Arab conquest swept away the Sassanian Empire. It was ruled at first by a series of Ispahbads of the Dabwayhid family who, after the Arabs had discontinued the use of the Sassanian Drachm, produced their own coinage that was half the weight of, and of the style and portrait of the drachm issued by Khusru II. They dated the coins by the Post-Yazdigerd Era, that is from the date of the murder of the last Sassanian Emperor Yazdigerd III in 651AD. After the Arab conquest of Tabaristan in 761AD, the Abbasid governors continued the coinage and dating system, but the portrait became more and more debased as time passed. Sulayman alone followed the strict form of Islam and removed the emperor's head altogether from his coinage, replacing it with a diamond on which is inscribed the Arabic word 'bakh', meaning 'good'.
Photos © Angela Grant 2017.

 

al-Ma'mun dinar obval-Ma'mun dinar rev

Abbasid Caliphate, AV Dinar, temp. al-Ma'mun, AH199 (814/5AD), al-'Iraq, citing Dhu'l Ri'asatayn.
At the death of Harun Al-Rashid the Caliphate was disputed between his two sons al-Amin and al-Ma'mun. Al-Ma'mun's power base was in Khorasan and he appointed al-Fadl ibn Sahl both as his vizier and his amir. From this dual civil and military command was derived his epithet Dhu'l Ri'asatayn, 'the man of the two commands'.
This coin was minted in Mesopotamia the year after the defeat of al-Amin, whilst al-Fadl's army was presumably in occupation.
Photos © Angela Grant 2015

 

Jinghiz Khan Qunduz Jital obvJinghiz Khan Qunduz Jital rev

Great Mongols, Jinghiz Khan, 603-624AH (1206-1227AD), Billon Jital, Qunduz (Kunduz) Mint.
Born Temügin, Jinghiz Khan united the Mongol tribes under a single leadership by 1206. He then conquered the Xi Xia to the south, and the Jin to the south-east, before turning his attention to the Qara Khitai to the south-west, and the territory of the Khwarezm Shah that lay beyond. He also made expeditions against the Volga Bulgars, the Kievan Rus, and the Georgians. His sons were to add to his conquests to form the largest empire the world has known. These conquests became renowned not just for their extent, but by the severity dealt out to those who offered any resistance. Whole cities were butchered, the corpses and heads stacked high whilst the city burned.
Qunduz, now in northern Afghanistan, seems to have fared better than many towns, probably by offering no resistance whatsoever to the Mongol forces.
Coins of this type were originally assigned to the Khwarezm Shah, 'Ala ed-din Mohammed, but the absence of a ruler's name, the Great Khan's coins often being anonymous, there being only one word ''adl' meaning 'justice' apart from the mint details at the edge, and the presence of the bow, a symbol often used by the Mongols, has led to it being reassigned to Jinghiz Khan.
Photos © Angela Grant 2012-2017

 

Pasai Kupang obvPasai Kupang rev

Sumatra, Sultanate of Samud(e)ra Pasai, Mohammed Malik al-Zahir, 1297-1326AD, AV Kupang.
The trading port of Pasai lies on the eastern side of the northernmost tip of Sumatra, facing the Malay Peninsula. It was ruled by a series of Sultans from the end of the thirteenth century CE until the beginning of the sixteenth century CE, when it was absorbed by the neighbouring sultanate of A(t)cheh. The coinage begun by the second sultan, Mohammed Malik al-Zahir, consisted of tiny gold Kupangs averaging 0.6 of a gram in weight. The coinage was continued by the Sultans of A(t)cheh.
Photos © Angela Grant 2015

 

Sudan Khalifa Abdullah obvSudan Khalifa Abdullah rev

Sudan, 'Abd Allah ibn Mohammed al-Taaishi, Khalifat al-Mahdi (the Khalifa Abdullah), 1885-1898AD.
AE Twenty Piastres, Omdurman Mint, 1315AH (1897/8AD)
On the death of Mohammed Ahmad ibn 'Abd Allah al-Mahdi in 1885AD, 'Abd Allah was one of three successors appointed by al-Mahdi. However, he soon emerged as leader and altered the direction of the Mahdiyya to a jihadist state intent on expansion. His attack on Ethiopia was initially successful but, although a counter-attack by Yohannes IV resulted in the latter's death, there was a failure to follow through. An attack on Egypt was repulsed, and followed by an invasion by an Anglo-Egyptian force under Kitchener resulting in the death of 'Abd Allah, and the extinguishing of the Mahdiyya.
The state suffered from economic difficulties and the amount of silver in the coinage was gradually reduced until it was virtually nothing by the time this coin was issued.
Photos © Angela Grant 2014-15

 

The Indian Sub-continent

Devagiri Ramachandra obvDevagiri Ramachandra rev

Yadavas (Seuna) of Devagiri, Ramachandra, 1271-1310AD, AV Padma Tanka.
Devagiri was the victim of the expansionist policies of the Delhi Sutanate. 'Ala ed-din Khalji captured the city in 1294AD, but allowed Ramachandra to remain in place for a substantial ransom and annual tribute. 'Ala ed-din sacked the royal treasury, and it is said on his return to Delhi he threw handfuls of these coins into the welcoming crowds. Ramachandra failed to pay the tribute, and, in 1307AD, a force under Malik Kafur captured Ramachandra, almost without resistance, and took him to Delhi. The king was again restored provided he helped 'Ala ed-din against the Hindu kingdoms further south. His successor Singhana III revolted against Delhi but was killed by Malik Kafur's army in 1313AD. The kingdom was annexed to the sultanate.
Photos © Angela Grant 2015

 

Sikh rupee obvSikh rupee rev

Punjab, Sikh Khalsa, temp. Ranjit Singh, 1801-1839AD, AR Nanakshahi Rupee, Amritsar Mint, 1876VS (1819AD).
Ranjit Singh, the Lion of the Punjab, had a profound effect on the Sikh lands in the Punjab, unifying the various Sikh misl into one single empire in which all religions were given equal status. He also redesigned the coinage, making it of full weight and good silver and a pleasant appearance, with improved calligraphy and floral decoration. Ten years after his death the empire he created was gone, and the state carved up by the British.
Photos © Angela Grant 2014-2015

 

The Far East

Wu zhu obvWu zhu rev

China, Western Han dynasty, AE Wu zhu.
These coins were introduced by the Western Han dynasty in 118BC and continued to be minted and used for several hundred years after that, with the minor interruption of the numismatically interesting, but economically disastrous reign of the usurper Wang Mang (9-23AD).
The coin name is an indication of the weight of the coin equalling five Zhu. The Chinese ounce or Liang (c. 16 grams) was divided into 24 zhu. This means the Wu zhu should weigh c.3.5 grams, but individual coins vary considerably. The example shown weighs 4.00 grams.
Photos © Angela Grant 2016.

 

Japan Mon obvJapan Mon rev

Japan, Tokugawa Shogunate, One Mon (Kan'ei Tsuho).
From medieval times until the end of the nineteenth century Japan was not ruled by the Emperors, who had little power, but by the Tokugawa Shoguns. These military leaders were extremely conservative to whom change was unwelcome. The Kan'ei era dated from 1624-1644AD, but, in fact, coins of this type were manufactured up to 1828AD, and are therefore difficult to date exactly. Coins with a blank reverse are the norm, and very common. Coins with a reverse character, in this case 'gen', are less common. Schjöth considered it to be a mintmark and attributed it to Osaka with a tentative date of 1741AD.
Photos © Angela Grant 2013-2015

 

Tokens

Plymouth Halfpenny obvPlymouth Halfpeny rev

British 18th Century Trade Token, Devon, Plymouth, Shepheard Dove Hammett & Co. Sail Canvas Manufactory, AE Halfpenny, 1796.
A stylish token showing the tools of the company's trade: the loom and the spinning-wheel.
A shortage of small change was supplemented by unofficial issues by traders, political medallets, and downright forgeries whilst the Royal Mint and the government did little to remedy the situation.
Photos © Angela Grant 2013-2015

 

Leeds Sixpence obvLeeds Sixpence rev

British 19th Century Trade Token, Yorkshire, Leeds, John Smalpage & S. Lumb, AR Sixpence, 1812.
A typical early 19th Century token. The shield is that of the City of Leeds: azure, a fleece or; on a chief sable three mullets argent. The wheel crest is odd, as the city crest is an owl.
A range of tokens were issued 1810-1812 due to shortages both in silver and copper small change. They were brought to an end by the Royal Mint issuing a completely new coinage in silver, supplemented by issues of regal copper made by Matthew Boulton in Birmingham.
Photos © Angela Grant 2015

 

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