Numismatic Icons

Numismatic Icons

numismatic icons Aug 1, 2022

The Greek island of Aegina is located just twenty-five miles off the coast of Athens and was settled in the 900 BCs by the Greek Dorians. Because of their watery position, the newly established Aegean people had to utilize the ocean for most of their resources, leading them to learn and build means of marine travel. They quickly set up a shipping trade route and became a formidable naval power by early in the sixth century BC. It was during their travels that the Aegeans came across some of the very first gold coins, produced by the Asia Minor kingdoms of Lydia and Iona. The incorporation of wealth into something stable and travel-sized was a no-brainer, but with access to the silver mines on the nearby island of Siphnos, they decided to take this coin thing to the next level. By the mid sixth century BC, the island of Aegina was the first Greek city-state to begin minting its very own gold and silver coins.

Numismatic Icons recreation of Aegean Tortoise Coins
Numismatic Icons recreation of Aegean Tortoise Coins

Widely circulated and recognized due to their consistent design, the first Aegean coins were decorated with the image of a sea turtle. Why a sea turtle? While the exact reason has been lost to time, most speculations range from the connection between ocean and island, the reliance of Aegina on the ocean for its livelihood, the abundance of sea turtles that reside in the Aegean Sea, to the slightly domed, turtle shell shape of the early coins. Some experts even believe the ancient people used the word “turtle” as slang for the coins. Whatever the true reason for their design, the turtle coin became the principal means of currency throughout Greece…until it was dethroned by the Athenian Owl.

In 457 BC, Athens took over Aegina and forced its inhabitants off the island. Their victory was short-lived, because in 404 BC they lost the Peloponnesian War against Sparta, which cost them their hard-earned reputation as the most powerful city-state in Greece. The Aegeans were able to return to their home, though by now they’d lost most of their power and influence. They rebuilt, focusing on developing their city-state from within. Aegina continued to mint coins throughout the fourth century BC, but they swapped out their sea turtle design for a land tortoise. Most likely it was a symbol of a new beginning for the Aegeans, but the coins never reached the popularity that their previous coins had. Centuries later, that’s become a benefit to the rare Tortoise coin owner.

Instead of the Aegean Tortoise coin, the Athenian Owl tetradrachms stole the spotlight as the primary trade coinage from 510 BC to 38 BC. Much of Greek culture was centered around the Greek gods, including Athena, the warrior Goddess of Strategy, Skill, and Wisdom. She was worshiped for her brilliance in battle especially. The city of Athens believed the goddess had claimed their city as patron. Why? Because of the owls.

Certain animals were believed to have shared characteristics and a connection with each Greek god or goddess. The owl was heralded as Athena’s animal because its intellect and hunting skill make it a deadly predator. In Athens, the owl population was abnormally high, just further proof to the ancient city that they were protected by their warrior goddess.

Numismatic Icons recreation of Athenian Owl Tetradrachms
Numismatic Icons recreation of Athenian Owl Tetradrachms

In order to honor their patron goddess, Athena’s head was minted on the obverse of the Athenian tetradrachms. Tetradrachms were usually minted on about 17.5 grams of silver, leaving plenty of room on their large faces for design. The Romans took advantage by minting the coin with a reverse bearing Athena’s owl, often accompanied by other symbols of the goddess such as a crescent moon and an olive branch.

The Numismatic Icons collection has revived and immortalized the story of these ancient coins on modern day, 5 ounce, fine silver coins. The new look showcases everything we loved about the original designs but now with a modern twist and flawless condition. 7k is excited to offer you, Athena’s Owl and the Tortoise.

Keep an eye out for new coins from this collection releasing soon, here on!

Numismatic Icons Coin Collection
Numismatic Icons Coin Collection A unique series begun in 2020, the Numismatic Icons coins are recreations of original Greek coinage. Their rough edges, ultra high relief designs, and antique finish make them unlike any other coin series in the world. Check these beauties out below: 2020 Numismatic…
See this evolving collection!


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