Coinage Types

The designs stamped on coins are known as types. These functioned at the most basic level to identify their issuing authority, which could be an individual city-state, a ruler or, more rarely, a league or federation. The types also served a wide range of additional and occasionally overlapping purposes. Some of the most commonly encountered coin types are those that feature city emblems, punning images, local deities and heroes, myths and foundation legends, animals, war commemorations, or ruler portraits.

Silver Didrachm
ca. 394-304 BC
A rose, the Greek word for which is rhodon and thus a punning reference to Rhodes, the issuing agent.
Dia. 20.0 mm. Photo courtesy Registrar's Office, Univeristy of Pennsylvania Museum.(132k)
Silver Tertradrachm
ca. 342-336 BC
Philip II of Macedon
Young naked rider on a walking horse, carrying a long victory palm. This commemorates Philip's victory in the horse race at Olympia in 356 BC. Inscribed PHILIPPOU or "coin of Philip."
Dia. 26.0 mm. Photo courtesy D. White. (116k)
Silver Tetrdrachm
ca. 415-387 BC
Rhegium, Bruttuim
Head of a lion. Whether because of their perceived characteristics, such as beauty, wildness, ferocity, swiftness, or wisdom, or because animals played some part in the issuing city's history or makeup, many different kinds of animals were used as coin types with frequently beautiful effect.
Dia. 24.0 mm. Photo courtesy Registrar's Office, University of Pennsylvania Museum. (116k)
Silver Tetradrachm
ca. 324 BC
Alexander the Great, Babylon mint
Head of Alexander-Heracles in a lionskin helmet. The first coins portraying Greeks, whether living or dead, developed only after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC His own coin portraits are therefore posthumous; the coins struck for Alexander during his lifetime in which his features are merged with those of his ancestral hero Heracles cannot be counted as true portraits.
Dia. 25.0 mm. Photo courtesy Registrar's Office, University of Pennsylvania Museum. (116k)
Silver Tetradrachm
ca. 302-301 BC
Seleucus I
Seleucia-on-Tigris miint
29-126-479, reverse
Enthroned Zeus holding a Nike or personification of Victory in his outstretched right hand. The coin type is based, at least in a generalized way, on the Phidian cult statue of Zeus at Olympia, which by the end of the 4th century BC was perhaps the most famous statue in the Greek world. Nothing of these colossal images has survived antiquity intact. Of Phidias's masterpieces all that has been preserved with certainty are a few sculptor's tools, molds and bits of ivory excavated from his workshop at Olympia.
Photo courtesy Mediterranean Section, University of Pennsylvania Museum. (132k)
Silver Decadrachm
ca. 400-375 BC
Racing four-horse chariot with a flying Nike personifying Victory crowning the driver. The space below is filled with captured Punic arms. This spectacular coin may commemorate the victory of Dionysius I over the Carthaginian general Himilcon and the deliverance of Syracuse from its Punic siege in 396 BC The reverse of the coin is signed by Euaenetus, one of the most renowned coin designers of antiquity. Commemorative types became especially popular in the Hellenistic period after Alexander's death in 323 BC
Dia. 34.0 mm. Photo courtesy Registrar's Office, University of Pennsylvania Museum. (149k)

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