Author Topic: Oldest dated coin ?  (Read 3561 times)

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Offline ChrisHagen

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Oldest dated coin ?
« on: November 19, 2013, 08:51:09 AM »
< topic split from other thread at request >


I guess Hetoum I ruled from 1226 to 1270, so 1246-7 makes sense as the date of the coin!

That's really cool. I love it when old coins are dated like that.

Way back, when I first started collecting, I thought only modern coins had dates. Then I found out that some issues from the 1500s would have dates like "15 (symbol) 5Z", as an example for 1552. Then I found out about Indian coins of Islamic dynasties with dates like 777AH, even earlier! And then I found out that the Byzantine coins would sometimes have ANNO and a regnal year. Then I found out that the coins of Kumaragupta I etc. often had regnal dates behind the head narrowing down the mintage of a coin to a specific year in the fourth century. I then learned of Judaean prutahs with the year on them from the BC era.

I keep learning of new ways to put dates on coins. "four and forty and six hundred" is definitely one of the cooler ways!

I wonder what the oldest dated coin is?! (i.e. dated 100% certainly within a specific year that can be translated to the gregorian calendar)
« Last Edit: November 19, 2013, 05:20:59 PM by THCoins »

Offline THCoins

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The oldest precisely dated coins i know of are the tetradrachms of Seleucid king Demetrios I. These are dated in the Seleucid Era (Starting about 312 B.C) and produced around 150 B.C.

Offline Figleaf

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An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline ChrisHagen

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Thanks Peter! I have in fact already visited that page more than a dozen times. It is a great one!

The earliest coin on this page is incidentally Danish! (I live in Denmark). However, it is "just" dated 1234.

The Demetrios I coins that THCoins mentions are so much older than that. And that's what I'm talking about, if you catch my drift.

Thanks a lot for that, by the way. As tetradrachms of that age they are currently too expensive for me to collect, but I love looking at pictures of the stuff that I wish were mine ;)

(Could a moderator pretty pretty please split this line of discussion into a separate topic, under some ancient coin board? Thanks a bunch!)

Offline cmerc

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Re: Oldest dated coin ?
« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2013, 07:11:36 AM »
Coins of the Westerns Satraps, circa 35-405 CE, often had dates on their silver drachms.  However, these coins bore the date according to the Saka calendar, with the earliest known dated coins bearing the date Saka 100 (~178 CE).   Those are more recent compared to Selucid or Judean coins, but these bear, arguably, an absolute date instead of a relative regnal year.   The numbering system was similar to Roman numerals--there are symbols for: 100, 200, 300; 10, 20, ..., 90; and 1, 2, ..., 9.  A superb example can be found here (picture reproduced below).  I thus nominate AR drachms of the Western Satraps/Kshatrapas as contenders for this thread's titular honour. 

Defending this hobby against a disapproving family since 1998.

Offline THCoins

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Re: Oldest dated coin ?
« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2013, 09:58:33 AM »
Sorry, have to disagree. The Seleucid coins i mentioned were not dated in regnal year, but also in absolute years starting from the beginning of the era, similar to the dating of the Westerns Satrap coins. However the start of the Seleucid era was 312 BC, so considerably earlier than the beginning of the Saka era.
In addition, also the Parthians used the Seleucid era dating on some of their coins. These also are older than the first dated Western Satrap coins. Even more, they often include the month of production. Look here for a Parthian coin from May 175 AD.

Offline ChrisHagen

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Re: Oldest dated coin ?
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2013, 10:48:20 AM »
Now that takes the discussion to a whole new level. A certain contender for most narrowly dated coin, having the month and all!

The western satraps series is amazing. I wish to own an example with a clear date some time. I own one currently, but the date is off-flan. It is one of my favorite series of ancient silver.

Offline natko

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Re: Oldest dated coin ?
« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2013, 01:24:53 PM »
This is a matter that also interested me since I began with the hobby as a kid. It would be interesting to make a few conclusions with earliest date. Let's say the oldest in AD era, eventually parallel with AH since these two are by far most widespread systems today. Aside it would be interesting to see which older coins, like the Seleucid one shown already, in different eras were showing year, but also if there was some even older piece that we can certainly say it bore a regnal year.

Offline cmerc

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Re: Oldest dated coin ?
« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2013, 05:52:53 PM »
I stand corrected!  I was only trying to campaign in favor of the Satraps' coins  ;D  Unfortunately, they lost without much fight. 
The Saka calendar isn't really absolute, as dating started in the first regnal year of Chastana.  I would prefer a somewhat non-political event defining a new calendar: e.g., birth of Christ or Buddha. 

All said, the imagery on Parthian coins are beautiful.  Too bad I cannot afford to start including those in my collection :(
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Offline FosseWay

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Re: Oldest dated coin ?
« Reply #9 on: November 26, 2013, 06:36:17 PM »
Irish 'Gun Money' coins were dated with the month as well as the year (although they fall far short of being the oldest dated coins, being issued in 1689-90). I believe the thinking behind this was that they would be redeemed in chronological order.

They were issued by James II's government during the war against William of Orange, and were made out of whatever scrap metal came to hand, e.g. guns, hence the name. Of course, James lost the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 and with it his chances of retaking the throne of Great Britain, and the coins were never redeemed.

One thing to beware of when looking at these is the date of New Year in the 1690s, which was 25 March. Therefore December 1689 is followed by January 1689, and March 1689 is followed by April 1690. (Theoretically you could get two issues of March 11 months apart. I don't know whether this happened in this case.)

Offline THCoins

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Re: Oldest dated coin ?
« Reply #10 on: November 26, 2013, 09:17:16 PM »
Your posts illustrate the trickyness of dating. We do not know for sure what type of calender every society used. Not only what defined year zero, but also for example if they used years based on the sun or moon, if there were leap years and such.
If you prefer a date origin like the birth of christ you have to realize that this does carries a political meaning to some people. In addition nobody started to count at zero when he was born. That was constructed many centuries later (That's why you will never find (real) coins dated 200 AD. People did not use that era then. Therfore a "political sart "may be preferable for historians. Because people actually used this system at the time. The Seleukid, Saka and Gupta era can be quite exactly  recalculated into our type of dating. There are quite some dated Indian copper plate manuscripts, mostly of grants given, which were issued around celestial phenomena like solar eclipses, and there is a reference to these in the text. It is known when these phenomena occurred. This alows a quite exact calibration of these ancient calenders to ours.

Offline cmerc

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Re: Oldest dated coin ?
« Reply #11 on: November 26, 2013, 10:20:29 PM »
Good point.  I guess I was thinking about the regnal year dating system on Mughal coins, which is certainly not absolute (although they also bear AH dates).  So if a calendar is adopted much later than any religious/political event, and continues to be followed for a long time afterwards, then it can be safely considered as an absolute calendar. 
Defending this hobby against a disapproving family since 1998.