People involved with ancient coin collecting, for the most
part, start out as collectors of modern coins. They move on because they find ancient coins more compelling.
In the minds of those who collect ancient coins, for one thing, there's more history. An early U.S. coin may have
been touched by Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Hancock, or other Founding Fathers, but an ancient coin may have
been touched by Thales, Pythagoras, Xenophanes, Democritus, Hippocrates, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Archimedes,
or others whose thinking formed the very basis of Western civilization. Age, by itself, is intriguing, and the
older, the more intriguing.
There's also more beauty, particularly with the ancient coins of Greece. U.S. coins often considered the most attractive,
Saints, Walkers, and Standing Libs, for instance, imitate the timeless designs of ancient Greek coins. Ancient
Greek coins, initiated soon after coins were invented, are considered the pinnacle of numismatic art. Ancient Roman
coins can be beautiful as well, though their history is typically their stong suit.
Despite their history and beauty, ancient coins are typically not more costly than modern coins but less. As with
modern coins, there's a huge range of pricing, from very high to very low. Among lower priced ancients, a Maximian
follis is a bronze coin just about exactly the same size and weight as a U.S. large cent. But this 1,800-year-old
Roman coin in extra fine condition typically costs just $25, about half of what a common-date large cent costs
in the same condition. You can find smaller fourth century AD Constantinian bronzes in this condition for $10.
The reason for pricing like this is supply and demand. On the supply side, billions of ancient Greek and Roman
coins were minted over more than a millennium, and unlike with modern coins, availability increases as numerous
ancient coins are dug up from the ground each year in source countries such as Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey,
and Israel. On the demand side, there are fewer collectors of ancient coins than modern coins.
In a nutshell, though modern coins have their considerable attractions, you can't beat ancient coins for their
awe/cost ratio, at least according to ancient coin collectors.
But ancient coin collecting can be intimidating, at first. Ancient coins almost demand that you be a numismatist,
that you study and learn. There are no albums you can buy and fill with neat, orderly acquisitions. Similar looking
coins can be minted in entirely different countries. Counterfeits are a reality, greater than with modern coins
because ancient coins were struck by hand and are much more varied in style, thus easier to fake.
Because of all this, the maxim "Read the book before you buy the coin" applies even more to ancient coins
than to modern ones.
But today, you can surf the Net first, to dip your toe in the water. Then, if you're still drawn to these magical
totems from times long gone, you can dive in further. Here's one way to go, a basic ancient coin guide for beginning
Read these Web sites
Out of their love for ancient coins and as a service to others, a number of ancient coin collectors have put up
informational Web sites, usually lavishly illustrated with coin images. A number of dealers include useful instructional
information at their Web sites as well.
Doug Smith's Ancient Greek &
This is the most comprehensive collector site about ancient coins on the Web. Doug has written and illustrated
more than 100 pages of information, including pages on coins of various Roman emperors and Greek city-states, coins
of the "barbarians," judging the attractiveness of ancient coin styles, ancient coin glossaries, plated
and countermarked coins, coin photography, and stereo microscopes.
Warren Esty's Ancient Roman and Greek
You'll find good advice here about buying and selling ancient coins, various collecting strategies, women on ancient
coins, grading, and fakes.
to Ancient Coins
This site deals mostly with Roman coins, but this is where a lot of people get started, as ancient Roman coins
are on average are about one-third the cost of ancient Greek coins. You can read about buying and storing, identifying
and attributing, grading, and fakes.
Dennis Rider's Ancient Cash
Using a clever image map of a real map of the ancient world, you navigate to Rome, Greece, Macedonia, Asia Minor,
Egypt, and elsewhere. Once there, you see and read about examples of the coins that were minted in these locales,
and you also read background historical information about the places themselves.
Ancient Coins: In Praise of the Celators
Here you'll find a complete list of Roman emperors, a list of Roman mints and mint marks, a list of Roman coin
denominations, common abbreviations, maps of ancient Rome and Greece, astronomical symbols on ancient coins, nominations
for the most beautiful ancient coins, and tips for new collectors with a limited coin budget.
The Money Museum
An offering from Germany with an English version, this site has lots of information about money in general, including
coins. There's material about ancient, medieval, and modern coins, coin production, how the eagle got on coins,
lions on coins, women on coins, and more.
This scholarly site hasn't been added to in a while, but the information is still useful. You'll find essays about
ancient coin production, portraiture, and other subjects as well as a catalog of ancient coins with detailed descriptions.
Joe Sermarini's FORVM Ancient
You'll find tools to help you identify Roman coins and decipher Greek letters, articles on various topics, active
discussion forums, maps of the ancient world, and a searchable forgeries database.
Barry & Darling
One of the best ancient coin informational sites from a dealer, this site provides a plethora of information covering
coin hoards, cleaning ancient coins, spotting counterfeits, the origins of ancient coins, deciphering Roman inscriptions,
and ancient mythology.
With more excellent information from a dealer, Dave Welsh, this site offers an introduction to collecting ancient
coins, including the attractions of ancients, how they were made, cleaning and preservation, grading, denominations,
Harlan J. Berk
This site includes a number of articles from HJB, a well-respected ancient coin numismatist and dealer, dealing
with ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine coins.
You'll find a whopping 127 articles here about various topics related to ancient coins, though most are short,
introductory pieces. Most of the articles describe the history and numismatic output of various regions of the
Here's a site about history, not about coins, but it provides excellent background information about the people
who minted and used ancient coins and the places where they lived.
Browse these Web sites for pricing, attributions,
You can also find excellent information on the Web about ancient coin pricing, attribution, and counterfeits.
This site provides the descriptions of and many prices realized for Roman, Greek, Byzantine, Celtic, and British hammered coins, from from eBay as well as directly from collectors. This is a good place to go when you're looking for information about your coins or for information about what coins you may be interested in have sold for.
Ancient Coin Search Engine
Ancient Coin Search Engine provides the descriptions and prices realized of ancient coins from European and U.S. auction houses,
which typically are higher end, and higher priced, than those sold through eBay.
This used to be the top ancient coin search site. But when it went to an executive-pricing business model, at $600 per year for full access, usage dropped off.
Helvetica's RIC Lists
Dozens of lists of common Roman bronze types in XLS or OpenOffice Calc format, either according to reverse type or emperor. The lists have dropdown columns to limit the lines until you find your coin. The lists include thousands of types not in RIC. Some lists of Greek and Roman Provincial coin types are also available. Compiled by the inimitable "Helvetica" of Wildwinds.
Identifying Late Roman
This is a great site, from Manuel Pina and Javier Marín
of Spain in both Spanish and English, for doing what its name suggests, identifying Roman bronze coins minted from
317 to 498 AD based on obverse and reverse type and obverse and reverse legends.
Catalog of Roman Coins
This site focuses just on Roman coins, but it's a quick and easy way to view and read about and identify representative
Roman Imperial coins of various emperors and Roman Republic coins of various time periods.
Jencek's Ancient Coins and Antiques
This site provides a search engine for obverse legends of Roman coins along with a list and description of Roman
emperors and a handful of articles on other subjects.
Modern Fakes of Ancient Coins
Here you'll find excellent information and photos of counterfeits of ancient coins, including types of modern fakes,
how to recognize forgeries, and recommended books for further study.
& Darling Ancient Coins' Counterfeits and Counterfeiters
This site also includes good information and photos of fakes of ancient coins, such as ancient counterfeits, methods
of manufacture for modern counterfeits, ways that counterfeits were detected in ancient times, and punishment for
Buy or borrow a book or several books
Coin Collecting by Wayne Sayles
Six volume set -- first is an overview and may be all you want -- plus a seventh book about forgeries titled Classical Deception.
The Handbook of Roman Imperial Coins by David Van Meter
Introduction to the hobby and overview of the most commonly collected and affordable ancient coins.
Roman Coins and Their Values, Greek
Coins and Their Values, Byzantine Coins and Their Values, Greek Imperial Coins and Their Values, etc. by David Sear
The standard general cataloging works for ancient coins, with each set providing a representative sampling of the
most frequently encountered coins along with attribution information.
Coinage and History of the Roman
Empire by David L. Vagi
Excellent history and background about ancient Roman coins.
Collecting Greek Coins by John Anthony
Engagingly written and organized primer for collectors of ancient Greek coins.
Archaic and Classical Greek Coins by Colin M. Kraay
Best scholarly book about earlier ancient Greek coins.
Early Hellenistic Coinage: From the Accession of Alexander
to the Peace of Apamea (336-188 B.C.) by Otto Mørkholm
Best scholarly book about later ancient Greek coins.
If you still want more information
Borrow specialized books about subareas of interest to you from the American Numismatic Association,
provided you're a member, for the cost of round-trip shipping, or buy them from various book sellers that specialize
in ancient coin books.
Spend a day (or days) poring through coin journal articles at the American Numismatic Society
-- search through their holdings at their Web site first -- or have the ANS mail you copies at 25 cents/page with
a $10 minimum.
Periodical about ancient coins
Excellent monthly magazine primarily written by collectors and dealers about ancient coins and occasionally artifacts
Online discussion groups about ancient coins
One of the best ways to learn more about coins, ancient or otherwise, is to participate in one or more of the many
online discussion groups about them. There's a rough and tumble side of online discussions -- conversation can
quickly turn to debate which can in turn quickly turn to argument. But most people are friendly and eager to answer
Most of the discussion groups about ancient coins are e-mail based and take place through Yahoo Groups. You can
elect to have all messages e-mailed to you individually as soon as they're posted or as a group once a day. Or
you can choose to read messages through Yahoo's Web site, though this is slower.
The purpose of most of the following discussion groups is apparent from the group's name, and when it's not, the
purpose is included in parentheses.
ACM-L (buying and selling)
(Coin Forgery Discussion List)
ACFDL (Ancient Coin Fakes
and Deceptions List)
Useful Web-based discussion groups about ancient coins in particular or coins in general include those at FORVM, Ancients.info, Coin Talk, and Coin
The most active online coin discussion group is the Usenet newsgroup rec.collecting.coins (RCC),
though most discussion there is about U.S. coins. You can access it through a newsreader such as Forte Agent, an
e-mail program with newsreading capabilities such as Microsoft Outlook Express, or the Web at this page.
National organizations in which ancient coins play
a major part and which publish periodicals in which ancient coins play a major part
American Numismatic Society
American Numismatic Association
Royal Numismatic Society
Swiss Numismatic Society
Hellenic Numismatic Society
Italian Numismatic Association
Israel Numismatic Society
Local clubs in U.S.
Ancient Coin Club of Los Angeles
Orange County Ancient Coin
San Francisco Ancient Numismatic
Pacific Ancient Numismatists
Ancient Coin Club
Twin Cities Ancient Coin
Ancient Numismatic Society of Washington,
Massachusetts Ancient Numismatic
Classical & Medieval Numismatic
U.S. coin shows where ancient coins are a major emphasis
New York International Numismatic Convention
Chicago International Coin Fair
Ancient coins have a smaller but still significant presence at the major U.S. coin shows, including the two ANA
shows, the three Baltimore shows, the three Long Beach shows, and the F.U.N. show. Depending on the specific show,
ancient coins may or may not have a presence at local coins shows. Sometimes a small number of dealers collaborate
on putting together a local ancient coin "bourse" in a hotel or similar meeting place to sell their wares.
Woefully incomplete list of recommended dealers
Occasionally expensive but world-renowned dealers based in U.S.:
Classical Numismatic Group (CNG)
Harlan J. Berk/Curtis Clay
Freeman & Sear
Jonathan K. Kern
Other well-known auctioneers based in U.S.:
Ponterio & Assoc.
Good dealers/good deals:
Calgary Coin & Antique
John C. Lavender
Barry P. Murphy
John J. Jencek
Jencek's Ancient Coins &
Trustworthy value-priced auctioneer:
Value-priced mail-order catalog dealers:
Wayne C. Phillips
European auctioneers of ancient coins (alphabetical order):
Gorny & Mosch
LHS Numismatik (formerly Leu Numismatics)
Münzen & Medaillen
Numismatica Ars Classica
Ancient coin auction malls:
eBay can be a good venue for bargains, since selling costs are relatively low there and Eastern European direct
sellers and collectors can sell directly to consumers (collectors) as well as dealers. Coins there often sell for
about half of what they sell for elsewhere (though sometimes they sell for more). eBay is best for lower-end coins
(there are exceptions here too), with other venues generally being better for coins that are less commonly seen
or are in very well-preserved condition.
eBay, however, is also a risky place to buy ancient coins (and artifacts), since anybody can sell there and many
buyers aren't experienced or sophisticated. Counterfeit scams are common, and eBay typically does little or nothing
to stop them, with many scams lasting months or even years. The percentage of scam ancient coin auctions at any
given time on eBay has been estimated to be as high as 10 percent (the percentage of scam ancient artifact auctions
has been estimated to be around 50 percent).
Unless you're an expert about a particular coin type and the ways of eBay, it's safer to buy only from recommended
eBay sellers such as those below and to avoid buying from anybody not recommended. Despite the risks, it can sometimes
also make sense to buy on eBay from what appear to be collectors selling duplicates or heirs selling entire collections.
You can get advice about particular auctions or sellers from from online discussion groups such as Moneta-L and FORVM. It's better to ask there than of me because you'll get more opinions. I
cover eBay fraud in more detail, including ways to prevent yourself from becoming victim, here.
The following is a list of trustworthy eBay sellers, based on my own and others' experiences. These recommendations,
of course, aren't a guarantee. This is a fairly comprehensive list of reliable active sellers of ancient coins
on eBay, but it's not a complete list. The eBay sellers below are listed according to the number of eBay unique
feedbacks they've received. Their eBay I.D. is on the second line, and the number of eBay feedbacks at the time
of this writing is on the third line.
The number of feedbacks is a factor of how long the seller has been selling on eBay and in what quantity. It generally
is one indication of reliability but may not necessarily be in all cases. If you want to further gauge reliability,
look at the percentage of negatives received (positive feedback percentage) and calculate the ratio of members
who left a positive feedback to all positive feedback received (a relatively low ratio means many repeat buyers),
comparing both with other sellers.
Dimitre Genov, Ancient Auction House
Plamen Arsoff, Ancient Treasures
Hubert Lanz, Numismatik Lanz
Herb Chavarria, Nemesis Ancients & Antiques
Ilian Lalev, Ancient Caesar
Clark Smith, Gold Hill Coins
Joe Sermarini, FORVM
Jerome Holderman, Rusty Romans
Alex Stanichev, Cameleon Coins
Joe Karon, Atlantic Treasure Coins
2509 (plus previous history selling on Yahoo Auctions)
David Hendin, Amphora Coins
Mike Malter, Malter Galleries
Harlan J. Berk
John McIntosh, Ancient Artifacts & Treasures
Blake Davis, Mortown Ancient Coins
Andrew Metz, Agora Coins
Kevin Barry, Barry & Darling Ancient Coins
Jim McGarigle, Polymath Numismatics
Serge Nechayev, Mithras Ancient Art
Mike R. Vosper Coins
Ras Suarez, Dirty Old Coins
Zach Beasley, Beast Coins
Tom Wood, formerly Chi-Rho Ancient Coins
Joe Winnett, JW Numismatics
Brad Bowlin, Eukratides Ancient Numismatics
Joseph Mastrario, Imperator Coins and Antiquities
Tony Jaworski, Common Bronze
Parviz Ahghari, Pars Coins
Brett Telford, Southern California Coins
Translating the German, French, etc., with mostly
AltaVista BabelFish Translation