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Rare Coin Market Update

Rare Coin Market Update #12 (Archives)

Ancient Greek Coins Symbolism, Tremendous Rarity and Fascinating History!

by James DiGeorgia 2012-06-01 14:46:06

I find this area of numismatics so exciting because it offers a glimpse into Ancient history, art, culture and society. It’s also exciting because with some genuine effort you can find Ancient rare coins that are not only over 2000 years old in many cases but they remain in what can only be described in amazing states of preservation.  Still one of other irresistible aspect of these wonderful coins is the price levels they trade at. Often these coins sell for a fraction of what a comparable U.S. rare coins trade, yet the coins may be 10, 20 even 100 times rarer.

Case in point...

At the show in Chicago I came across a coin that’s approximately the size of a U.S. quarter but as much as 3 times as thick. This coin is called a “BI Shekel”.

The coin caught my eye because it features an extremely High Relief portrait of Hercules wearing a lion skin headdress on its obverse. The reverse of the coin features a prowling lion. Libya’s royal symbol was in fact – a lion.

Hercules was the son of the Greek God Zeus and a mortal mother (Alcmene). Alcmene Is most often described in Greek and Roman mythology as the tallest, most beautiful woman with wisdom surpassed by no person born of mortal parents. It is said that her face and dark eyes were as charming as Aphrodite’s, and that she honored her husband like no woman before her.

The coin was struck at the Cathage Mint at some point in time between 241 and 238 BC and is composed of Billion – a metal alloy containing copper or bronze with a small quantity of silver.

The Libyan Revolt was an uprising of mercenary armies formerly employed by Carthage, backed by Libyan settlements revolting against Carthaginian control. The revolt of Carthage's mercenaries and oppressed Libyan subjects in 241-237 BC nearly ended her power and even existence.

This war, unrivaled for its savagery, was fought over most of Punic North Africa and spread to Sardinia. It brought to power in Carthage Hamilcar Barca, father of Hannibal, whose generalship - though flawed - was critical to Carthage's final victory.

The war began as a dispute over the payment owed the mercenaries between the mercenary armies who fought the First Punic War on Carthage’s behalf, and a destitute Carthage, which has lost much of its wealth due to the indemnities imposed by Rome as part of the peace treaty. The dispute grew until the mercenaries seized Tunis by force of arms, and directly threatened Carthage, which then capitulated to the mercenaries' demands. The conflict would have ended there, had not two of the mercenary commanders, Spendius and Mathos, persuaded the Libyan conscripts in the army to accept their leadership, and then convinced them that Carthage would exact vengeance for their part in the revolt once the foreign mercenaries were paid and sent home. They also persuaded the combined mercenary armies to revolt against Carthage, and various Libyan towns and cities to back the revolt. What had been a hotly contested "labor dispute" exploded into a full-scale revolt.

Heavily outmatched in terms of troops, money, and supplies, an unprepared Cathage fared poorly in the initial engagements of the war, especially under the generalship of Hanno the Great. Hamilcar Barca, general from the campaigns in Sicily, was given supreme command, and eventually defeated the rebels in 237 BC.

This amazing piece of Ancient Greek history remains in virtually mint state condition. It possesses a gorgeous light patina of toning that is just breathtaking. Making it even more interesting the coin was struck on top of another coin!!!

NGC has pointed this out by noting “Overstruck” on the label. If this was Draped Bust U.S. Quarter or Barber Quarter, it would be considered an error coin and worth 300% to 500% more than a non error coin. But there is no premium involved with this coin even though it merits a huge premium.

I think Ancient Greek and Roman coins in virtually mint state condition will see their price levels rise dramatically for two reasons.

First, Numismatic Guarantee Corporation (NGC) is now grading these coins. Any doubt on condition and quality are completely eliminated. Investors/collectors and dealers can now buy and sell these coins with complete confidence.

Second, independent grading by NGC has set the step to better calculate just how rare each type of Ancient coin is. I think we are going to find out that most of these high grade amazing rarities are incredibly rare.

Best Wishes

James DiGeorgia