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“Greek Coins” describes coins of Mediterranean city-states and kingdoms before the Roman Empire, Celtic tribes and Indo-Greek kingdoms, most bearing Greek legends though other languages appear. There are many opportunities for specialization. Some collectors focus on artistic interest. The collection of Calouste Gulbenkian is an outstanding example of the artistic appeal of the finest coins of ancient Greece. Leonidas at Thermopylae other collectors specialize in issues of a single city. Catalogues of specialized collections, such as the Tarentine collection of Michel Vlasto, often become valued standard references. There are also topical collection themes such as ships, birds, horses etc. Many collectors begin by seeking to acquire one nice example of the coinage of each city, such as Athenian owls.
In ancient Greece, money originated as metal rings, rods or spits. Money took a variety of forms before the adoption of coins, and early coinage is often found mixed together with other kinds of primeval money. Coins originated as small precious metal ingots, stamped with badges guaranteeing weight and purity, in western Asia Minor about 650 BC. After the Lydian has developed a bimetallic coinage, by 500 BC silver staters were being used throughout the Mediterranean world. Most early coinage was struck to support governmental spending, particularly military expenditures, which were very high during the constant warfare of the fifth and fourth centuries BC. In 338 BC, this internecine warfare ended when Philip II of Macedon conquered mainland Greece. The Macedonian monarchy then soon vastly expanded when his son Alexander conquered the Persian Empire. On Alexander's death, his empire fragmented into the kingdoms of Macedon, Syria, Thrace, and Egypt, beginning the era of Hellenistic royal coinage. To the West, the prosperous cities of Magna Graecia were soon caught up in struggles involving the competing power of two great city-states, Rome and Carthage. Carthage issued a voluminous coinage for its wars against Hellenistic Sicily, and later Rome, which ultimately ended in her total destruction (146 BC). However, Greek coinage continued into the first century ad, after the fall of Carthage the rest of the Mediterranean world was then rapidly absorbed into the Roman Empire. Gold and silver specimens of the ancient coins of Greece in the very finest style and condition can be expensive, but many very attractive examples in these metals are reasonably priced. Bronze coins of ancient Greece offer many outstanding values, and their prices are rapidly appreciating. The artistic merit of many bronzes is high, and the darker patination of the most artistic bronzes can be very striking.