When I was younger and my Dad showed me an ancient coin that he had, I was completely amazed. I was holding a coin that was nearly 2000 years old! The coin he had was of Gallienus, Emperor of the Roman Empire. He ruled from 253 to 268 AD. He kept the coin in his wallet to show people, and they all had about the same reaction I did. I thought anything that old was only found in museums. This took my idea of coin collecting to a different level. I still loved collecting United States and World coins, but this ancient coin category was something I really wanted to explore.
The main ancient coin categories that I began to look into were:
• Greek Coins (450 BC-100 AD)
• Roman Republic Coins (300 BC-27 BC)
• Roman Imperial Coins (27 BC-476 AD)
• Roman Provincial Coins (100-400 AD)
• Byzantine Coins (300-1400 AD)
The latter Byzantine coin category had a fascinating coin that was minted in the 10th century, the “anonymous folles”. The word follis was meant to refer to a large bronze coin, although in Latin some suggest the word was meant to refer to a bag containing coins. Then around 970, the Byzantine Emperor John I Tzimiskes, produced coins made from copper with the likeness of Christ on the obverse. And on the reverse, some contained the Latin phrase, IhSuS, XRISTuS, bASILEu BASILE, meaning “Jesus Christ King of Kings”. There was no name of an emperor on the coin, and that is why they are referred to as an “anonymous follis”. It is believed to be the only coin to ever have on it an image of Jesus Christ.
Another one of my favorites is the Greek Owl of Athena coin. This coin like many others had it’s roots in mythology. You may remember from watching the movie “Clash of the Titans”, that after Athena refused to send her pet owl to help Perseus, that he had Hephaestus build him a mechanical version of her owl to help out on his quests.
And of course there is the list of the bad guy Roman rulers, like Tiberius, Gaius (Caligula), Nero, Domitian, Commodus, Marcus Aurelius, and Diocletian to name a few. Again, holding these coins is something that will help you visualize what was going on back then. If you love collecting coins, and studying history, ancient coins will not disappoint. And for you teachers out there, this will get your students attention when you pass one of these around during class!