Collecting gold coins can be a lucrative pastime. Gold coins are familiar to many people and are highly collectible. The most recognizable would include South Africa's gold Krugerrand, Canada's gold Maple Leaf, and America's gold Eagle. Some people also like to collect gold bars.
For more adventurous collectors, ancient coins are growing in popularity, among both general antique collectors and numismatists, or coin collectors. Popular choices are ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Byzantine coins.
Who were the Byzantines?
The Byzantine empire was originally the eastern half of the ancient Roman empire. It lasted from 330 B.C.E. until 1453 C.E., long after the fall of Rome. The Byzantine covered areas to the east of Italy, including the modern countries of Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania. Their capital was Constantinople, which is now modern-day Turkey's capital, Istanbul.
What years were Byzantine coins in use?
Shortly before the Roman empire fell in 476 B.C.E., the Byzantines started minting their own coins. By 491 B.C.E., they were making gold, silver, and bronze coins. These coins were used for centuries until the gold coins made popular in the north and west by Charlemagne came into favor during the crusades, devaluing Byzantine gold coins.
What currency did the Byzantine Empire use?
The Byzantines minted three types of coins: gold, silver, and bronze. Both the gold and the silver were carefully minted with details of the faces of emperors, empresses, and religious figures, like Christ and the Virgin Mary. Gold and silver coins were also printed with additional details on the reverse side. Careful attention was paid to creating these valuable coins, which is still reflected in the detail seen on them today.
Bronze coins, on the other hand, were quickly made, with much less attention to detail. These coins were of nominal value then and, as a result, very few remain today.
What was the Byzantine gold coin called?
The Byzantines were so careful with the production of their gold coins that the coins became the standard for gold coins throughout Europe and Asia for many years. Each coin was precisely measured to ensure consistency and weighed exactly the same. This precision earned the world's respect. The coin is called the solidus, referring to how solid and valuable it was. The solidus is the most popular choice for ancient coin collectors today, particularly those interested in ancient gold coins.
What is a silver stavrata?
Like the solidus, Byzantine silver was also highly respected and valued. The silver coin produced by the Byzantine empire is called the stavrata.
How much money was made in the Byzantine Empire?
While no one can know for certain how many coins were produced during the Byzantine Empire's long reign, it is estimated that they could produce several hundred thousand gold coins annually.
Who was pictured on Byzantine coins?
In ancient times, it was common to put the faces of the current emperor on all coins. This may include a direct image, a profile image, or even an image with his wife, the empress. Some coins also featured Christian symbols, like images of Christ or the Virgin Mary, as the Byzantines practiced Christianity. In fact, the Empress Irene put images of herself on both sides of the coin.
Were Byzantine coins flat or cup-shaped?
While most coins struck during the Byzantine Empire's rule were flat, the coins started to become slightly cup-shaped in 1034 C.E. Unscrupulous emperors tried to reduce the purity of gold coins in their favor and added a slight cup shape to them. This devalued the coins slightly and eventually led to the rise of gold coins from northern and western countries.
Byzantine coins are a great way to investigate other cultures, explore ancient coin options, and add variety to your coin collection.
To learn more about Byzantine coins, contact a collector.