The Phoenicians are even today remembered as a maritime culture. Based around modern-day Lebanon, they traded with many other ancient civilizations, and established colonies as far west as on the Iberian peninsula. Ba'alshillem II was a Phoenician king of the city of Sidon, and his name is found on the coins abbreviated to a B - of course written as a Phoenician character - found above the galley on the obverse (front) of the coin.
Ba'alshillem's full name is known from an inscription ('B-l-shlm') written on the foot of a small statue of a child, which was found during an archaeological dig of the Bustan esh-Sheikh site. Click here to see a picture of the amazing statue.
Politically, Ba'alshillem took an anti-Greek stance by supporting the Persians in their war against Sparta, sending ships to fight at the Battle of Cnidus in 394 BC.
These coins are tiny things! They are known as 1/16th shekels, and typically weigh 0.5 to 0.8 grams. This small size helps explain why they are so surprisingly affordable.
worn: $40 US dollars approximate catalog value
average circulated: $100
well preserved: $250
Interestingly, the child statue mentioned earlier shows Ba'alshillem's at-the-time unnamed son, who came to be known as Abdashtart and succeeded his father as king. When he came of age, the coins begin to show his name, again abbreviated to the first letter of his name, the Phoenician 'O'-like character, found between the Persian king and the lion he is battling on the reverse. Coins with this character can be confidently dated to within their joint reign, 370 to 359/358 BC.
Some of these coins have neither the Phoenician 'B' above the penteconter galley, nor the Phoenecian 'O'-like character on the reverse - instead they show a date in Phoenician characters. These are some of the earliest dated coins, and were struck under Mazaeus, a Persian puppet-king ruling in Cilicia - one of the last before Alexander the Great would come half a century later and destroy the Persian empire.