Ancient Greece Drachme, Tetradrachm, Octadrachm  500BC to 100AD
Ancient Greece Drachme, Tetradrachm, Octadrachm 500BC to 100AD

There is no shortage of mythical creatures on ancient Greek and Roman coins. This one has a hippocamp (like a mermaid, only a horse and fish combo instead of woman and fish), but don't forget griffins and unicorns.

The basic measure of gold and silver in ancient times was the drachme which, by the way, is the name still used in Greek coinage today. Many ancient coins are designated by their weight of gold or silver, with AR (argent, white) silver and AU (aurum, glow of sunrise) gold, with the drachme weighing approximately 4.4 grams.

Other coins, more or less valuable than the drachme, are given names with multipliers, so tetradrachm is a coin which weighs 4 drachme. Kenya's octadrachm weighs 8 drachme. Here is a schedule of some of the most-used ancient weights for coinage.

DesignationWeight in grams

As to value of ancient coins, they are becoming more and more popular with collectors and the prices are going up and up. Modern archaeological techniques, coupled with careful cleaning and conservation of ancient coins, make them attractive and interesting collectibles. As always, wear and eye appeal make big differences in pricing, with more desirable coins commanding large premiums at auctions.

The coin in our picture, with the hippocamp, Phoenician galley, and lion attacking a bull, weighs 13.2 grams (a tetradrachm). It comes from the ancient city of Byblos, which is Greek for the Phoenician city of Gebal located in modern Lebanon and sells for $1000 to $2000 US dollars, depending on condition. A search on eBay shows that similar coins are available for purchase at much lower prices. But high quality coins, especially gold coins, are priced much higher.

There are several good web sites that address ancient coins. Two of the best and most reputable, and our favorites, are:


Refer to these sites for detailed information (ForumAncientCoins) and pricing (VCoins). Remember that coin dealers operate like most retailers, using typical 100 percent mark-ups for coins they buy and sell. This means if you buy a coin from a dealer for $100, anticipate that another dealer will buy it from you for $50.

CoinQuest thanks member dlyumkis at ForumAncientCoins for use of the coin photo, and artist verreaux at for use of the amazing hippocamp artwork.

Coin: 13660 , Genre: Ancient
Requested by: kenya, Tue, 22-Jan-2013 18:14:56 GMT
Answered by: Paul, Fri, 20-Sep-2013 00:51:52 GMT
Reviewed by CoinQuest. Appraisal ok., Sat, 10-Jan-2015 13:59:54 GMT
Requester description: Unknown animal on front Phoenician octadrachm
Tags: ancient greece drachme drachmai tetradrachm octadrachm 500 100 anciet apaxme araxmai drachm dpachmai evvhnikh apaxmai dachm drachma drachmes dpaxmh apachmai paxmai draxmai apaxmae hmokpatia paxme dpaxmai apaxmee ewhnikh ehnikh drachamas tetras tetradrachme tetradracm animal front hippocamp unicorn griffin mermaid gryphon giffin griffon griffins cow bull lion tiger cows bulls brhama lions cougar tigers






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