Islands off Attica. Aegina. c. 480-457 BC

Islands off Attica. Aegina. c. 480-457 BC


AR Stater, 12.19g (18mm). Sea turtle, head in profile, with "T-back" design on shell / Large square incuse with skew pattern

Pedigree: Ex Berk BBS 195 (29 October 2015), lot 104; Patrick H. James Collection (Triton XVIII, 6 January 2015), lot 527; Classical Numismatic Group 55 (13 September 2000), lot 362.

References: Meadows, Aegina, Group IIIa. Milbank Period III, pl. I, 15. Dewing 1674. Gillet 947. Gulbenkian 523. Jameson 1199

Grade: Beautiful iridescent toning and well centered with most details present. Slight wear on the shell. aEF


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Aegina, Corinth and Athens were the very first to coin money in the western Greek world in the 6th century BC. Unlike the communities on the western coast of Asia Minor which struck electrum, an alloy of gold and silver, the mainland Greeks used only silver as their metal of choice. Of course this predilection towards silver was likely due to the close proximity of silver mines. Aegina, which held a supreme position of power on the sea, used the mines at Siphnos (modern day Sifnos), an island in the Cyclades in Greece. The other great mines at Laurium, Damastion and Paeonia served other leaders such as Athens. The earliest of the Aegina staters show a sea turtle, which was a badge of their powerful city. It is suggested that once Aegina lost its stature as a leading seafaring community it revised its coinage to reflect a land tortoise.

Coins from Aegina are among the most cherished of the early Greek coin series. The high relief turtles on generously sized flans reflect the strength of the city state. Most collectors of ancient coins enjoy to have both a land and sea turtle in their collections.