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Our Top Five… Ancient Greek and Roman coins

Those ancients could certainly produce a beautiful coin or two, and they still delight collectors today


The ancient Greeks and Romans were way ahead of their time, and when it comes to coins, their specimens continue to attract the investors, thanks to their fascinating history and beautiful designs.

Here are our top five ancient Greek and Roman coins:

The Frome Hoard

"You never get surprises living in Devizes", sang the Wurzels. And while there is no bigger fan of the cider-drinking rockers than Paul Fraser Collectibles, they were wide of the mark on this occasion.

In 2010, more than Roman 52,000 coins were found by Devizes metal detectorist Dave Crisp in a Somerset field. 67 different types, from 253 to 305 AD were unearthed. The Museum of Somerset subsequently bought the hoard for £320,250.

"I put my hand in, pulled out a bit of clay and there was a little radial, a little bronze Roman coin," Crisp told the BBC.

Maxentius's gold medallion

Roman Emperor Maxentius ruled from 306 to 312 AD. His brief reign makes coins bearing his proud features rare and highly desirable.

Maxentius’s gold medallion sold for $1.4m in 2011

A gold medallion sold for $1.4m at Numismatica Ars Classica earlier this year. One of only two known to exist, it is huge, weighing in at eight aurei. The reverse bears the inscription: "To eternal Rome, guardian of our emperor".

Rare bronze goat

A bronze coin from the little known Greek city of Aegospotami can be an exciting addition to any collection.

Minted prior to 405 BC, the coin bears the depiction of a friendly looking goat - a reference to the nearby Goat river. Specimens can make up to $600 at auction.

"But he was good to his mother…"

In 37 and 38 AD, Roman Emperor Caligula issued a coin to honour his late mother Agrippina. Featuring the emperor on one side, his mother on the other, these coins are extremely rare and highly prized.

A specimen was discovered by metal detectorists in Chichester last year.

Astronomical Greek coin

A Greek empire coin minted in around 120 BC is thought to mark the eclipse of Jupiter by the moon on January 17 121 BC, according to Unreported Heritage News.

Minted by Antiochos VIII of the Seleucid Empire, in modern day Syria, it bears the ruler's likeness on one side and a star scene on the other alongside Zeus.

Should any example ever appear at auction we believe it could really capture the imagination of collectors.


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Images: Numismatica Ars Classica

Last updated: 2 June 2011