The affordable prices, cool design and fascinating back story of these ancient tetradrachms make them interesting to a lot of collectors. After Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world and suddenly died, his kingdom was split among his generals. As an old friend of Alexander's father, Lysimachus came to hold western and northern Asia Minor along with Thrace, the stretch of land between modern day Turkey and Greece.
Then along came Philetaerus, himself a general of Lysimachus, who allied with another old general of Alexander against Lysimachus. As a result Lysimachus was eventually slain in battle, and Philetaerus then became ruler of the area. To replace those issued in the name of Alexander, Philetaerus had a large amount of silver coins issued in his name. This all happened in the span of 320 BC to 280 BC. The dynasty that Philetaerus left kept ruling the area, and eventually the old silver coins all became too worn, and new ones had to be issued.
So around 160 BC, the city of Pergamon took the initiative to strike these coins, which came to be known as 'cistophoric' tetradrachms. The first word means 'cistos-carrying', and refers to the 'cista mystica', a basket of snakes portrayed on the coin, which was somehow involved in the initiation rites to the sacred cult of the harvest god Dionysos. The coins were well received, and kept circulating for a long time. Even after the Roman Empire began conquering Asia Minor in the 80s BC during the Mithridatic Wars, the coins kept being issued locally. The major cities striking them were Ephesos in Ionia, Pergamon in Mysia, and Apameia in Phrygia. Enough history! Values are below:
worn: $120 US dollars approximate catalog value
average circulated: $180
well preserved: $300 and up
Coins with unattractive damage such as heavy scratching, holes or gouges are worth less than the values above, which are catalog values - please refer to our Important Terminology page on the top left for more information on the sometimes confusing term 'catalog value'.