Saronic Islands. Aegina, c. 350-338 BC

Saronic Islands. Aegina, c. 350-338 BC


AR Obol, 0.92g (11mm, 1h). A-I, land tortoise with segmented shield, viewed from above / Incuse square with five sunken compartments and thin skew device, Δ in one compartment, I in another.

Pedigree: Ex Triton III (30 Nov - 1 Dec 1999), lot 449

References: HGC 6, 452 var (A only in obverse right field). McClean 6054-6055

Grade: Beautifully toned and great centering. Some minor wear on shell of tortoise. Was previously encapsulated and graded NGC Choice XF 4/5 - 5/5 (gk1247)

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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 assuredly 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.

This particular specimen is a obol which is much scarcer than the typical larger stater denomination.