Ancient Roman and Greek Coins, FAQ

  Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Ancient Coins.

    This page is mostly for beginners, but has some advanced material on later pages:  About buying. About selling. About eBay and other auctions.  About rarity and the difference between collecting US and ancient coins. There are also numerous pages on the coins of particular emperors and particular collecting themes at my main educational site. If you get interested, there is a page on "What should I collect?"

What's new?  2023, June 5:  A Roman Republican coin of Julius Caesar added to this page, and pages 2 and 3 made shorter by moving some answers to their own pages.
         2022, Feb. 18: Comments on how large hoards appear and keep prices to collectors low (on page 2).
         2020, June 2: A paragraph on how many hoards and individual coin finds there have been in Britain (on page 2). 

              (This page is educational and the coins are not for sale. If you would rather look at coins to possibly buy, see here.)

This is a very common copper (copper can turn green with age) coin, 23 mm in diameter (between the sizes of a US nickel and quarter) of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great, who reigned 307 - 337 A.D, over 1600 years ago. For more commentary, click the image.



Are there really genuine ancient coins?

Oh, yes. The Greeks and Romans minted huge numbers of coins and many millions (really!) are still around in nice shape.

How old are they?

The Greeks and Romans minted coins hundreds of years before the time of Christ. The most common ancient coins are Roman coins minted in the third and fourth centuries AD (200 AD to 400 AD), so most ancient coins are 1600 years old or older, and many are over 2000 years old. The very earliest coins were struck about 600 BC.


What do they look like?

The next one is a common Roman silver coin denomination, a denarius, the size of a US cent.

Roman emperor Septimius Severus, 193-211 A.D.
The legend (beginning at 6:30 on the obverse) gives his name "SEVERUS".
For the reverse and commentary, click the image.
To learn about reading legends, go to a page on legends.


Next is a Greek silver coin.



A coin struck for the city of Rhodes (on an island just off the southwest coast of modern Turkey) 250-230 BC.
A silver didrachm (2-drachm piece). 21 mm, the diameter of a US nickel, but thicker.
The obverse shows the sun god, Helios. Do you see the sun's rays streaming from his head?
The reverse shows a rose, the symbol of Rhodes, because of the pun Rhodes/rose.
The letters, in Greek, name the person (not a king) responsible for minting the coin.


Roman Republican silver denarius struck by Julius Caesar in 49-48 BC,
19 mm. 3.18 grams
Elephant standing right, trampling serpent
Four attributes of the High Priest (Julius Caesar was Pontifex Maximus, high priest)
Lituus (cup with a handle for pouring libartions), sprinkler (for spattering liquid over worshippers), an ax (symbol of power), and an apex (a priests pointed hat with cheek guards and ties.

Roman Republican denarii have many different designs and are very collectible. 

 Show me more!

 Gladly. There's lots more interesting stuff!

Continue on page 2:
Why are there so many genuine ancient coins? Photos, designs, legends, ancient value,
modern costs, dealers. What do people collect?

Skip to page 3: books, ancient coin websites, Julius Caesar,
Alexander the Great, inexpensive coins, women on coins,
grading, fakes, buying, proper prices, selling,
e-mail list, eBay buying and selling, how coin auctions work,
moving beyond the "beginner" level, educational links, and more!

Material about buying and selling.
Material about moving up to "intermediate" from "beginner" and Roman coin educational links.

Return to the Table of Contents of this whole group of pages.

Originally posted 2/13/97. Revised, June 22, 2013. Revised Sept. 19, 2018. Revised June 5, 2023.