World Coins

Ancient gods abound on classic Greek coinage

A circa 500 to 450 B.C. electrum 12th stater (or hemihecte) coin from Cyzicus in Mysia depicts an unnamed river god.

Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

Ancient Greek mythology is rife with stories of gods and goddesses, many familiar today.

But hundreds of lesser known deities in Greek mythology aren’t as widely chronicled, and their names may even be unknown to us today. One way we know about these characters is from their appearance on coins.

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One such lesser-known god appears on an electrum coin being offered in Heritage Auction’s April 7 sale. The sale is a new auction for a new event, the 2017 Chicago Coin Expo, held at the Chicago Cultural Center in the heart of the Second City. 

The coin, a circa 500 to 450 B.C. 12th stater (or hemihecte), depicts a river god, a man-headed bull, on the obverse. The god lords over a tunny (fish) below him. The reverse depicts a quadripartite incuse design common to these early coins of Cyzicus in Mysia, in what is now modern-day Turkey.

Experts have cataloged the design as appearing on a larger denomination, a hecte (one-sixth of a stater), but never before for a 12th stater, according to Heritage. 

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The tiny coin measures 9 millimeters in diameter (about half the size of a Lincoln cent) and it weighs 1.3 grams. Electrum is a naturally occurring alloy of silver and gold. 

The example in the Chicago auction is graded by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. as About Uncirculated, with strike and surface each graded 4/5.

The “gemlike piece” is “beautifully struck, with an unusually detailed river god and clean, flat fields,” according to the auction lot description,and carries an estimate of $1,000 to $1,300.

Full details of the auction are available at the auction house website.

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