HomeAncient Greek Coins - The Peak of Classical Artistry

Ancient Greek Coins – The Peak of Classical Artistry

Ancient Greek Coins by Russell A. Augustin, AU Capital Management, LLC ……

Lampsakos has a storied past, having been a frequent source of contention between battling powers, changing hands between Lydia, Persia, Athens, and Sparta between the sixth and fifth centuries BCE. It was the first ancient Greek city-state to see its gold coinage reach broad international acceptance, a testament to its prosperity and influence. Acting as the successor to the Persian daric, the stater of Lampsakos retained the weight standard established by the daric and became very popular, circulating from Sicily to the Black Sea.

ancient grrek coins - staters of Lampsakos

The Greeks tended to issue gold coinage only to meet an immediate demand, generally caused by a large debt or crisis. Lampsakos, however, derived significant wealth from its position as a strategic harbor and therefore had a substantial need for a regular and consistent output of ancient Greek coins.

These ancient greek coins, or staters, of Lampsakos are some of the most appealing ancient gold coins not only for their high standard of artistry but also because of the diversity of their designs.

Over the 60 years during which the city issued gold coinage, more than 40 different obverses were produced. This level of creativity is uncommon as contemporary mints generally kept their gold coinage consistent from year to year, making only minor changes.

This particular ancient greek coin was struck at the end of the Classical period and bears the head of Zeus, the king of the Greek gods, in a fantastic portrait of superb style, with a lotus-tipped scepter on his shoulder. The reverse is sometimes referred to as a generic “winged horse” but the more common interpretation is that it represents Pegasus, the most famous of winged horses.

This reverse design remained consistent for the entire duration of Lampsakos’ gold coinage and acted as a symbol for the city. It became so recognizable that the mint did not feel any inscription was necessary to identify their iconic gold coinage, despite their use of inscriptions in other metals.

This coin belonged to Prince Alexandre Chattowskoy of Russia, born in 1777. He presided over Smolensk and like much of the nobility of the time, he was a patron of the arts. He personally translated many works from French to Russian including Volatire’s L’Orphein de la Chine, publishing it in 1809, and Jean-Francois Ducis’ Abufar, ou la famille arabe in 1815. He also wrote several of his own pieces, including a romantic comedy based off of Walter Scott’s novel The Fortunes of Nigel. His coin collection was sold in 1908 in a Brüder Egger sale, in which this coin was lot 539.

This coin was later used as the plate coin for the type by Agnes Baldwin Brett (1876-1955) in her substantial work Lampsakos: The Gold Staters, Silver and Bronze Coinages (1924). She was the first female curator at the American Numismatic Society (ANS) and became a renowned scholar in ancient numismatics and archaeology.

* * *

LAMPSAKOS, Stater c. 360–340, Persic standard, AV 8.47 g. Obv. Laureate and bearded head of Zeus left, lotus-tipped sceptre on right shoulder. Rev. Forepart of Pegasus flying right, within a shallow incuse square. Literature Traité II/2, 2537, pl. CLXXI, 3 BMC Mysia 81, 28, pl. XIX, 6 SNG von Aulock 7394 SNG Lockett 2709 A. Baldwin, ”Lampsakos. The Gold Staters, Silver and Bronze Coinages”, AJN 53/3, 1924, 29w, pl. III, 4 (this coin) Pozzi 2228 M.-M. Bendenoun, Coins of the Ancient World, A portrait of the JDL Collection, Tradart, Genève, 2009, 23 (this coin) Rare. A fantastic portrait of wonderful style and a lovely reddish tone, Extremely Fine. Provenance Monnaies et Médailles AG 68, Basel 1986, 271 Brüder Egger, Wien, January 1908, 539. Ex. Prince Chattowskoy collection.


Russell A. Augustin
Russell A. Augustinhttps://www.aucm.com
Russell Augustin entered the numismatic profession in 1982. He specializes in U.S. gold, Pioneer and Fractional gold coinage, Early Type and Early Dollars and ancient Roman and Greek coinage. Russell attended both Ohio Wesleyan and Harvard Universities. Thereafter, he served as Vice President and Director of Numismatics at two national coin companies. He founded NumisTech Consulting, and has been an appraiser for the federal government, price consultant for a rare coin fund, and advisor to a major New England advertising agency. In 2005, Russ established AU Capital Management (AUCM), LLC, where he is currently owner and president. In 2016, AUCM became an affiliate of the numismatic powerhouse, RARCOA, and relocated its fulfillment center to Illinois.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Park Avenue Numismatics Gold and Silver Bullion

AU Capital Management US gold Coins

Doug Winter Numismatics Branch Mint Gold