Coins originated in Asia Minor about 650 bc. when s ymbols guaranteeing weight and purity were first impressed on to small pieces of electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver. These first coins made commerce so much easier that Greek and Phoenician cities all around the Mediterranean soon began to issue their own coinage .
The first Greek coins bore t he badges of the rulers and city-states that issued them. During two thousand turbulent years these devices evolved, as badges were followed by a succession of imposing and artistic portraits. Greek gods and goddesses sacred to issuing cities were first portrayed. After the conquests of Alexander the Great, religious images were replaced by those of Hellenistic kings. As Rome absorbed the Hellenistic kingdoms, portraits of Roman emperors appeared on imperial Roman coins. The Byzantine Empire continued for a thousand years after the fall of the West, during which imperial portraits were replaced by
iconic depictions of Christ and the saints. Persia meanwhile evolved a unique numismatic style - Parthian and Sasanian coins bear royal portraits and reverse types that are very different from those on Greek and Roman issues, but no less fascinating.
Some collectors specialize in ancient gold, while others seek particularly interesting bronze issues. Topical collections such as ancient bronze coins with horses are popular subjects.
Ancient Greek coins of the finest style can be artistic masterpieces, and portraits on earlier Roman Imperial issues are frequently majestic. The best examples of these, and other particularly fine and rare specimens, are collected on our Premier Coins pages.
Portraits of many celebrities appear on ancient coins, and may be found via our Celebrities page.
Collectors whose interests focus on Christianity or on ancient Jewish culture will find examples relating to these interests, such as the Tribute Penny and Widow's Mite, on our Biblical Coins page.