By Mike Markowitz for CoinWeek …..
 

The Achaemenid Empire of Persia ruled much of the Middle East from 550 to 330 BCE. With a diversity of cultures, languages and religions, the economy relied on a mix of regional currencies. “Royal” coinage, issued from the mint of Sardis in Asia Minor[1], consisted of the silver siglos and the gold daric.

Coinage is conservative; these coins remained virtually unchanged for two centuries.

The daric was a high-purity gold piece of 8.4 grams based on an ancient weight standard, the Babylonian shekel. It was a month’s pay for a mercenary foot soldier. One daric exchanged for 20 silver sigloi. It was an international trade coin; hoards have been found from Sicily to Afghanistan. It is one of the few coins mentioned in the Old Testament (I Chronicles 29:7, Ezra 2:69 and 8:27, and Nehemiah 7:72)[2].

The Greek word for the coin, dareikos, derives from the name of Darius the Great (ruled 522-486 BCE). Greeks nicknamed the coins “archers” (toxotai) because a bow appears in the design. We don’t know what the coin was called in Old Persian.

These crude, lumpy coins bore no inscriptions. The obverse shows a crowned image of the king wearing a long robe. The reverse is an “incuse punchmark” left by the tool used in striking. British numismatist Ian Carradice classified Persian royal coinage into four types. No Type I darics are known.

Time of Darios I-Xerxes I. Circa 505-480 BCE. AV Daric
PERSIA, Achaemenid Empire. Time of Darios I-Xerxes I. Circa 505-480 BCE. AV Daric (8.27 gm). Persian king or hero in kneeling-running stance right, shooting bow / Incuse punch. Carradice Type II (pl. XI, 11); VF, well centered. Very rare. Triton VIII, Lot: 564. Estimate $4,000. 10 January 2005.  Sold For $5,200. 

Type II Daric

On the Type II daric, the king kneels, drawing a bow. A quiver of arrows is strapped to his back. This is probably a hunting scene, rather than a military stance. Issued from the time of Darius I to Xerxes I (c. 505-480 BCE) these coins are very rare. High-grade examples at auction go from about $3,500 USD to a record of $20,000 (!) with an average around $6,000. An example graded Very Fine sold for $5,200 against a $4,000 estimate in a major 2005 auction[3].

Kings of Persia, time of Darius I to Xerxes I. Daric circa 500-485
Kings of Persia, time of Darius I to Xerxes I. Daric circa 500-485 BCE, AV 8.25 g. Persian king or hero in kneeling-running position r., holding a spear in r. hand and bow in l.; quiver over shoulder. Rev. Rectangular incuse punch. References: BMC 67 (siglos); Robinson NC 1958, cf. pl. 15, 8-9 (siglos); Carradice Type IIIa, cf. pl. XI, 15 (siglos). In exceptional condition for the issue, one of the finest darics to appear on the market in the last twenty years. Exceptionally well struck and neat. Extremely fine. Leu sale 91, 2004, 189. Tradart sale 14 December 2014, 191. Numismatica Ars Classica Auction 96, 6 October 2016, Lot: 1130. Realized: 12,000 CHF (approx. 12,246 USD).

Type III Daric

The Type III daric is by far the most common. Dated from around 485 to 420 BCE, there are also several variants.

Achaemenid Empire. temp. Darios I to Xerxes II. Circa 485-420 BC.
Achaemenid Empire. temp. Darios I to Xerxes II. Circa 485-420 BC. AV Daric (15.5mm, 8.40 g). Lydo-Milesian standard. Sardes mint. Persian king or hero, wearing kidaris and kandys, quiver over shoulder, in kneeling-running stance right, holding spear and bow / Incuse punch. Carradice Type IIIb, Group A/B (pl. XIII, 27); Meadows, Administration 321; BMC Arabia pl. XXIV, 26; Sunrise 24. Fine.Classical Numismatic Group Electronic Auction 453, 2 October 2019, Lot: 140. Realized: 425 USD 

In the great collection of the American Numismatic Society (ANS) in New York, for example, there are 36 darics: 35 of Type III and just one of Type II. On the obverse, the king, in a “kneeling-running” posture, holds a spear in his right hand, and a bow in his outstretched left. In a 2016 Swiss auction, “one of the finest darics to appear on the market in the last twenty years”, brought over $12,000[4]. In contrast, a well-worn example went for just $425 against a $500 estimate in 2019[5].

PERSIA, Achaemenid Empire. Time of Artaxerxes I – Xerxes II. Circa 455-420 BC. AV Daric (8.34 g). Persian king or hero in kneeling-running stance right, holding dagger and bow / Incuse punch. Carradice Type IV, Group A (pl. XIII, 32). Superb EF. Sale: Triton IX, Lot: 1064. 9 January 2006.  Sold For $7500. 

Type IV Daric

On the rare Type IV daric, dated c. 455-420, the king holds a short dagger rather than a spear. The dagger is often weakly struck, or nearly off the edge of the coin. A sharp, well-centered example bought $7,500 in a 2006 auction[6].

Some darics and rare “double darics” continued to be struck under Alexander the Great at Babylon for a short time after the fall of the Persian empire.

* * *

Notes

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sardis

[2] Hendin, 104

[3] CNG Triton VIII, January 10, 2005 Lot 564. Realized $5,200 USD(estimate $4,000).

[4] NAC Auction 96, October 6, 2016, Lot 1130. Realized CHF 12,000 (about $12,246 USD; estimate CHF 10,000).

[5] CNG Electronic Auction 453, October 2, 2019, Lot 140. Realized $425 USD (estimate $500).

[6] CNG Triton IX, January 9, 2006, Lot 1064. Realized $7,500 USD (estimate $5,000).
 

References

Carradice, Ian (editor). Coinage and Administration in the Athenian and Persian Empires. Oxford (1987)

Hendin, David. Guide to Biblical Coins, 5th edition. New York (2010)

Melville Jones, John. Dictionary of Ancient Greek Coins. London (1986)

Olmstead, A. T. History of the Persian Empire. Chicago (1948)

Price, Martin. “Darius I and the Daric”, Revue des Etudes Anciennes 91 (1989)

Tuplin, Christopher. “The Changing Pattern of Achaemenid Persian Royal Coinage”, Explaining Monetary and Financial Innovation. P. Bernholz and R. Vaubel (editors). Springer (2014)
 

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