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New favorite small coin arrived


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After a few hectic days, travelling back and forth about 400 kilometers, by train, to perform unpleasant tasks, I had a reason to relax today (well.... sort of). 

The package with the 4 coins I won from the last auction arrived and I was able to study them without disruptions. 3 of the coins were from my never ending wish list, but the 4th (in fact the first I bought in the auction) was an impulse purchase. Impulse because I think I have never seen the type until checking the auction, but it quickly became a must have because it ticked a few boxes:
1. a denomination I like to collect 
2. a motif I like to collect
3. a city that was not present in my album. 

This was enough to make me want it. So I would like to show...


6 mm, 0,23 g.
Ionia, Kolophon. AR tetartemorion. Circa 450-410 BC.
Laureate head of Apollo right / TE monogram (mark of value) in incuse square; stork in left field.
Milne, Colophon, 36; SNG Kayhan 360.

(also the original photo from the house, as my picture is inferior)


To explain the points above:

1. I simply love small denominations and I was very pleasantly surprised when learning about them. It was a little unexpected to see the ancient engravers being able to create such masterpieces on very, very small flans. 
The tetartemorion was the smallest Greek silver denomination. In fact there was even a smaller denomination, the bronze chalkous (1 tetartemorion = 2 chalkoi). The value of the tetartemorion was 1/4 obol (1/24 drachm). To understand the actual value of these small coins, it seems that a loaf of breaf costed 4 tetartemorions. A very interesting article can be found here.

2. I like to collect coins with animals. The stork is not common at all and I was not even aware there are coins with storks. So adding a new animal in my Zoo is very good news. 

3. Kolophon/Colophon was a city in Ionia, in Western Asia Minor. Founded at the start of the 1st millenium BC, probably the oldest city in Ionian League. Powerful and luxurious, the most important city in the League, but gradually lost the importance starting with  7th century BC, when it was conquered by king Gyges of Lydia. The city went into decline, losing importance as Ephesus and Miletus were flourishing. In 3rd century BC, it was destroyed by Lysimachus and never managed to recover. 
Kolophon is one of the possible birth places of the great poet Homer. Possible other birth places - Smyrna and Chios island. 

A major point of interest for me was the reverse, where the monogram lists the denomination. I am not 100% sure but I think this is something specific to Kolophon tetartemorions such as (not my coins)



I knew about some Kolophon types and I wanted an example, but the stork is a major bonus for me. 

I also liked Apollo's portrait and I think it is a nice transition from the archaic depiction in other tetartemorion I like a lot from my collection, this one from Lampsakos. 


The Kolophon coin was very difficult to photograph. I am still not happy with the result but it is definitely the best from many, many attempts. Bad light in my house, my camera is not the best one in the world + my usual lack of patience. But the coin has exceptional details. 


Thank you for reading. Please post your favorite small coins, birds, coins from Kolophon or whatever you think it might be relevant. 

Edited by ambr0zie
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  • ambr0zie changed the title to New favorite small coin arrived

Nice additions ambr0zie, and I too am partial to fractionals. I like the more location specific imagery and the fact that some have such beautifully detailed work on such a small canvas.

Oh, and you can sometimes find a stork on the coins of Kroton. 

~ Peter 


Edited by Phil Anthos
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Lovely coin @ambr0zie- and history  too especially the bit where you skip over  how they were  notorious dog sacrificers! 😛 It's one of those cities where given just a few decades more it might have been a major coin producer and  I lament  what could have been. Thank you for  pointing  out that article too!

Not many herons/storks around, but here's a Gelan one, which incidentally also shows the first  time Nike was shown as a charioteer on Sicilian coins.


 SICILY. Gela. AR Tetradrachm (17.24 g), ca. 425-420 B.C. Jenkins  Group VII
Obv: Nike, holding wreath and reins, driving chariot left; olive wreath above; Rev: Forepart of man-headed bull right; below, heron or stork standing right.

(Photo prerelease.)



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What an interesting coin @ambr0zie! Thanks for sharing! The smallest coin I have in my collection is an Indian fanam which is 7mm. I am always afraid I will lose it when I hold it. I couldn't imagine something smaller that I actually had to use in order to pay for life's necessities. 

It always amazes me how beautiful the engraving is on such small pieces. True artists.

@lloydchristmas is a lover of small coins and I think would enjoy this a lot.

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16 minutes ago, Furryfrog02 said:

I couldn't imagine something smaller that I actually had to use in order to pay for life's necessities. 

I think I can say I actively collect small coins as I have ~25 small denominations (obol or smaller). Including a coin that I strongly suspect it's a hemitetartemorion, but I haven't mentioned this denomination in my writeup as I am not entirely convinced this is correct for it (it is in excellent condition, diameter 5 mm and weight 0.08 g!!!). But yes, I am still amazed seeing the attention to details and the artistry. Although the monetary value was very small when they were actively circulating, this didn't mean the engravers were superficial. Not at all. 

I knew, of course, the Kolophon coin was small. So the size of a tetartemorion, generally speaking,  is not a surprise for me when opening a package. But it is still a little shocking when actually seeing the true size.


My hands are not large at all. 


Edited by ambr0zie
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And I thought I had the smallest fraction, but ambr0zie matched me! I'm always afraid of breathing too hard and having it fly away. 

Taras, Calabria

480-470 BC
AR Hexante (5mm, 0.08g)
O: Scallop shell with 7 teeth, within linear border.
R: Wheel with four spokes.
D'Andrea IV, 78; Vlasto 1118; SNG France 1617; HN Italy 836
From the E.E. Clain-Stephanelli collection. ex Naville Numismatics

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Only a few less than can dance on this coin!
This tiny and rare little coin is now the smallest in my collection. Being but 5mm and weighing less than 1/10th of a gram, this coin is about the size the LED 'Power On' light on a small device.

~ Peter 


Edited by Phil Anthos
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Here is my contender, @Phil Anthos


5 mm, 0,08 g.
Ionia, Miletos. Possible Caria, Mylasa. AR hemitetartemorion. Circa 525-475 BC.
Head of a roaring lion l. / Quail standing l. within incuse square.
Cf. Rosen 407/8; Klein 430; SNG Tubingen 3001.

Along with some other small coins in my palm (again, I really don't have large hands)


And in a battle with my largest coin, a 41.7 mm lion thaler. 



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So do dogs!

ambr0zie your coin gets the title since they are both detailed images while mine is a shell and a wheel. And while storks may be rare on coins, I have never seen a quail before!

Here's another silverleaf coin from Taras...

AR 3/8 Obol (6mm, 0.16g)


Edited by Phil Anthos
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My smallest coin feels fat next to yours; it's almost twice as wide and six times as heavy!

Mysia, Kyzikos, AR Diobol, ca. 450-400 BCE. Obv. Forepart of boar left; to right, tunny [tuna] upwards. Rev. Head of roaring lion left within incuse square.  Seaby 3846 [Sear, David, Greek Coins and their Values, Vol. 2: Asia & Africa (Seaby 1979)]; Von Fritze II, Group II, No. 9 (p. 36) [Von Fritze, H., "Die Silberprägung von Kyzikos" in Nomisma IX (1914), at pp. 34 - 56]; BMC 15 Mysia 108-113 [Wroth, Warwick, A Catalog of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Vol. 15, Mysia (London, 1892) at pp. 34-35]; SNG BnF 361-366 [Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, France, Cabinet des Médailles, Bibliothéque Nationale, Vol. 5, Mysia (Paris 2001)]. 10 mm., 1.22 g., 6 h.


The stork on yours is wonderful; here's my one ancient coin with a stork:

Roman Republic, Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius, AR Denarius, 81 BCE. Obv. Head of Pietas right, wearing diadem; below chin, stork standing right / Rev. Elephant standing left, wearing bell around neck; in exergue, Q•C•M•P•I [Q. Caecilius Metellus Imperator]. Crawford 374/1, RSC I Caecilia 43, Sear RCV I 301 (ill.), Sydenham 750, BMCRR Spain 43. 18 mm., 3.9 g.*


*See Sear RCV I at p. 128: “The issuer strikes as imperator in Northern Italy where he was campaigning on behalf of Sulla. The following year he was to be the dictator’s colleague in the consulship.” See also Crawford Vol. I p. 390: “This issue was produced by Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius, serving as a Sullan commander in the fight against Carrinas, Norbanus and Carbo. The obverse type [of Pietas] . . . alludes to his cognomen, acquired for his part in securing the restoration from exile of his father Q. Caecilius Metellus Numidicus.” The stork depicted in front of Pietas “is an emblem of family piety and an occasional adjunct of the goddess.” Jones, John Melville, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (London, Seaby, 1990) p. 243, under entry for Pietas. (Apparently, the Romans believed that the stork demonstrated family loyalty by returning to the same nest every year, and that it took care of its parents in old age.)  

Crawford also states at Vol. I p. 390 that “[t]he reverse type of an elephant recalls the capture of Hasdrubal’s elephants by L. Caecilius Metellus in 251 [BCE]” (also commemorated by an elephant denarius of C. Caecilius Metellus Caprarius in 125 BCE; Crawford 269/1, RSC I Caecilia 14) (see the elephant denarius of Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio issued in 47-46 BCE; Crawford 459/1, RSC I Caecilia 47). The family was known for its opposition to Caesar.

And one modern French medal:

France ca. 1920, Paris Mint, Aviation, AE Art Deco medal  by Paul-Marcel Dammann (1885-1939). Obv. Wind bride with plaited hair standing nude on left leg at edge of mountain pinnacle with right knee bent upward, attaching wing to her right ankle; in left field, FERIAM SIDERA* in two lines; in right field, MCMXX; at rim at 5:00, M. DAMMANN / Rev: Two fledglings in stork's nest at left atop mountain pinnacle; to right, parents hover in air nearby, encouraging them to fly / Edge: Lettering: BRONZE; Engraver’s Mark: Cornucopia. 90 mm., 226.8 g. CGMP [Catalogue général illustré des éditions de la Monnaie de Paris] Vol. 3 (1871-1945), p. 115. Purchased from Noonans, Auction 264, 16 Nov. 2022, Lot 916; ex Collection of Art Medals formed by Dr Edith Greenwood (d. 1987).


* The quotation "Feriam Sidera" ("[I] will touch the stars") was taken from by Dammann from Horace, who ended his first ode, to Maecenas, 35-36: "Quodsi me lyricis vatibus inseres, sublimi feriam sidera vertice" ("Yet if you join me with the lyrical singers, I will lift my head to the stars").

Finally, the question of "how did they do that??" always arises when recognizable designs on tiny ancient coins such as yours are shown. See my post from last year on the subject in @Al Kowsky's thread about the Tomb of the Griffin Warrior, with a relevant article I attached, as well as the subsequent discussion:  https://www.numisforums.com/topic/641-lets-not-forget-the-tomb-of-the-griffin-warrior/#comment-11522 .


Edited by DonnaML
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3 hours ago, DonnaML said:

My smallest coin feels fat next to yours; it's almost twice as wide and six times as heavy!


Another city with a tradition for small coins; I think many collectors started loving small fractions after getting a Kyzikos fraction. 

They also released tetartemorions with this design - one of my 3 Kyzikos fractions is one of them - 8 mm and 0,18 g.


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4 hours ago, AusCollecting said:

Hey @ambr0zie,

You might like my latest coin, both tiny with animals: 


Hemiobol AR
Caria, c. 500-450 BC
7 mm, 0,31 g

Of course I do. I also have a variation of it (mine is also a tetartemorion) but with the reverse bull facing right.... and looking more like the head of an insect. 


Edited by ambr0zie
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I like this quote from Oscar Ravel...

... The part of the small denominations, which owing to their small size, have always been ignored by the collectors, show such a sequence of small works of art, and so complete, that every museum would be pleased to have it in its cabinet. For many numismatists some of these tiny pieces, will be a real revelation.”
~ Oscar E. Ravel (Descriptive Catalogue of the Collection of Tarentine Coins formed by M. P. Vlasto - 1947)

~ Peter 

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