NGC Ancients: An Ancient Overstrike

Posted on 7/19/2013

This month, NGC Ancients highlights a silver stater of Locri Epizephyrii.

The method of production ensures that every ancient coin is technically unique. Since each coin was hand struck, there is a certain amount of tolerance for coins being struck off-center, exhibiting die shifts, or double strikes. Planchet flaws and die cracks are to be expected as well. Additionally, it was a reasonably common (and pragmatic) practice to withdraw coins from circulation and to use them as the planchets for new issues, often leaving remnants of the “undertype” still visible to the naked eye. Unsurprisingly, collectors of ancient coins don’t usually think of such pieces as being “error” coins, but merely products of their time and place.

Recently, NGC Ancients graded and encapsulated a silver stater of Locri Epizephyrii, a city in Bruttium in Southern Italy, that was struck late 4th-early 3rd Centuries B.C. Its strike characteristics are of such interest that it stands out even amongst its imperfectly manufactured brethren.

Silver Stater of Locri Epizephyrii
Click image to enlarge.

On the surface, this is a perfectly pleasant coin featuring Zeus on the obverse and an eagle clutching a hare on the reverse, a characteristic design type for the series. However, if one examines the reverse closely, it becomes apparent that there is the shadow of a Corinthian stater intermingling among these design elements! The ridge of raised metal before the eagle’s head is all that remains of the head of Athena, a standard feature of Corinthian-style staters, but it is enough to conclusively identify this undertype. Corinthian-style staters were issued at more than 20 mints in Greece, Italy and Sicily, and based on the scant details that remain on this specimen, there is no way to determine the specific mint of the host coin.

To provide a bit of a historical context for this coin, the city of Locri Epizephyrii did not strike coinage before the 4th Century BC. The reason for this remains a mystery, especially since several of its lesser neighbors issued large series of coinage during the Archaic and early Classical periods. Robinson proposed that the city's coinage needs were possibly met by nearby Caulonia, a city with an inexplicably large output for its size. Beyond basic classification, little more is understood at present about the coinage of Locri. However, various inscriptions dating to c.350-250 B.C. suggest that by the time Locri was issuing coins, the sanctuary of Zeus was functioning as the city's principal credit institution by issuing loans that were essentially sacred revenues transferred to public funds. Thus, it is not surprising that Zeus or his associated symbols would have dominated the major coin types of this city.

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