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HomeNumismatic TermsHippocampus - Strange Mythical Creature on a U.S. Coin

Hippocampus – Strange Mythical Creature on a U.S. Coin

Hippocampus. Image: Adobe Stock / CoinWeek.
Hippocampus. Image: Adobe Stock / CoinWeek.

(n.) Also Hippocampos or Hippocamp.

The hippocampus is a mythical creature of ancient Eurasian cultures depicted as being part horse and part fish or dolphin, featured on coins as ancient as the gold 50 asses of Etruria (211 BCE-200 BCE) and as modern as the U.S. 1915-S Panama Pacific International Exposition commemorative $2.50 gold quarter eagle. The hippocampus on the Pan-Pac coin is surmounted by the personification of Columbia holding a caduceus in her left hand.

The hippocampus is used in heraldry as a heraldic charge, in much the same way as a lion, griffin, or eagle (etc.) might be.

The term is also used to describe the seahorse (Hippocampus hippocampus) and the portion of one’s brain responsible for storing memories and conveying emotion.

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  1. Ironically, I was just looking at a nice example being offered on Great Collections! I’m unfortunately not in the market, however this is a really cool coin IMO. Like many others here, I’m sure, I am quite fond of the Pan Pacific offerings in all formats(sizes), denominations, medals, as well as metals. The octagonal $50 is one of, if not, my all time favorite design. Thanks for the tidbits on the use of hippocampus in the design!


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