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, 361-334BCE, 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 331BCE 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 328BCE.
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.180-160BCE or c.174-165BCE, 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, 106BCE, 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, 37-44CE, 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 37CE 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 39CE, 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 41CE, 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 44CE 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, 193-211CE, AR Denarius of 210-211CE, commemorating his expedition into Caledonia.
Severus landed with his army in 208CE, 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 210CE 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. CE, 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', 978-1016CE, 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

 

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, 1278-1305CE, 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

 

The Modern World

Potosi 8 Reales obvPotosi 8 Reales rev

Spanish America, Carlos IV, 1788-1808CE, 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, 1831-1849CE, 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, AH171-173/787-789CE, AR Hemidrachm or Tabari Dirhem, dated 137PYE.
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 651CE. After the Arab conquest of Tabaristan in 761CE, 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

 

Pasai Kupang obvPasai Kupang rev

Sumatra, Sultanate of Samud(e)ra Pasai, Mohammed Malik al-Zahir, 1297-1326CE, 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), 1885-1898CE.
AE Twenty Piastres, Omdurman Mint, 1315AH (1897/8AD)
On the death of Mohammed Ahmad ibn 'Abd Allah al-Mahdi in 1885, '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, 1271-1310CE, AV Padma Tanka.
Devagiri was the victim of the expansionist policies of the Delhi Sutanate. 'Ala ed-din Khalji captured the city in 1294CE, 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 1307CE, 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 1313CE. The kingdom was annexed to the sultanate.
Photos © Angela Grant 2015

 

Sikh rupee obvSikh rupee rev

Punjab, Sikh Khalsa, temp. Ranjit Singh, 1801-1839CE, 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 118BCE 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 (9-23 CE).
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 1624-1644CE, but, in fact, coins of this type were manufactured up to 1828CE, 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 1741CE.
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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