Mysia, Kyzikos. c. 450-330 BC

Mysia, Kyzikos. c. 450-330 BC


EL Hekte – Sixth Stater, 2.60g (9.5mm). Bearded male, nude but for petasos and cloak tied at neck, crouching left on the back of a sacrificial ram lying left, holding its head up with his left hand, exposing its neck that he prepares to strike with a knife held above in his right hand / Quadripartite incuse square. 

References:  Cf. Von Fritze I 156 (unlisted denomination); Greenwell 71; Boston MFA –; SNG BN –; BMC –; Gulbenkian –; Jameson –; Rosen –; Weber –; Traité II 2646. 

Grade: Lovely sharp strike with interesting imagery. Some cracks on the edges as is typical with electrum coins. EF  (gk1193)

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The electrum issues of Cyzicus are among the most beautiful of early Greek coinage. It is also one of the more mysterious. The Cyzicene staters and hektes (⅙ staters) were one of the “global” currencies within the ancient Greek world. Other far-reaching currencies were the Athenian owls, the gold darics of Persia and the coinage of Alexander the Great. The primary difference between the coins of Cyzicus and those mentioned above was that Cyzicus was in and of itself a relatively unimportant coastal city in Asia Minor. It did not have precious metals at its disposal like the great silver mines of Laurium exploited by Athens nor the power that could force tributes and raw material like the Persians or Alexander. This remains a mystery among academics. The coinage of Cyzicus was produced without interruption for over 220 years. Although the area was overseen by both the Persians and the Athenians during its coin production, the mint and the coinage was never tampered with. In fact, the coinage of Cyzicus was truly a trade coinage, accepted and utilized by all (even the Athenians) as a means of acceptable payment. There was no writing on the coinage but only the appearance of the tunny that denoted its origin of minting. Cyzicene staters were so trusted by all that despite the varying levels of gold to silver ratios, the coins were never test cut. Just like the U.S. dollar or the Euro is accepted as a trusted form of payment today, so were the Cyzicenes during its production. Another interesting characteristic of the coinage was the diverse range of images employed. Many scholars have studied this aspect and attempted to explain why it was so. A very good article written by the late Leo Mildenberg (The Cyzicenes: A Reappraisal”, from the AJN 5-6, 1993/4, p. 1-12) gives a wonderful summation of the coinage and of which my write-up is based, explains that the tunny and the reverse incuse were enough to establish the stability of the currency. With that underlying assumption, the coinage was able to employ fascinating imagery that would appeal to a wide variety of people and places all over the Greek world. Most of the Cyzicences were used outside of Cyzicus and had to appeal to the masses. The local currency of Cyzicus was in silver and named magistrates. This more mundane currency was okay for home but abroad the electrum coinage created was meant to impress. Another technical difference in the production of these coins was that the reverse, not the typical obverse die, was set in the anvil. This may explain why there were so many different obverse dies as they were set in the striking hammer causing them to have a much shorter shelf life. The minting authorities obviously used this to their advantage.