Ancient Creations | Glossary of Terms
A glossary of terms for ancient coins, rare jewelry and artifacts.
glossary of terms
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Glossary of Terms

AE

Copper or bronze. Such as: AE-3, AE-4, etc. the size of the coin with AE-1 being the largest.

AMIS

A goatskin cloak or shield.

ALLOY

The resulting solid solution of metals melted and proportions by weight. Coinage metals are generally alloys whose proportions have been specified by law.

AMPHORA

Tall earthenware jar for oil or wine.

ANTONINANUS

A Roman denomination silver coin equal to 2 denari, always with a radiated crown. Name taken from Antoninus Caracalla (211 – 217 A.D.) who introduced it. Later debased to a bronze coin with a silver wash.

AR

Symbol for silver.

ARGENT

Latin term for silver “argentum.”

ARGENTEUS

Another name for the denarius, revived by Diocletian and struck 96 to the pound of silver.

AS (AES) (ASSIS)

A copper coin from Rome. It was not a monetary unit, weight formed the basis of all exchanges about 269 BC.

ASSARIUS

The 1/4th part of the follies. Introduced by Diocletian and corresponds to the decanummion of the Byzantine Empire.

AUREUS

The best known of the Roman gold coins. It succeeded the scripulum. The regular coinage of the aurei began with Julius Ceasar. Orginally struck at 42 to the Roman pound. Weight reduced gradually to 70 to a pound in the time of Gallienus 253 – 268 AD.

AURUM

The Latin generic term for money.

AV

The symbol for gold.

BARBARIAN COINS

A general description for pieces from circa 400 B.C. to 300 A.D. in imitation of Greek and Roman types.

BI-LINGUAL COINS

Inscriptions with two different languages such as Greek and Hebrew.

BILLION

Any low grade alloy of silver and copper, generally with copper predominant.

BILLON ASPRON TRACHY

Reduced from the gold hyperpyron to 1/48 around 1092 A.D. Further debased to 1/48 around 1143 A.D.

BLAZON

A coat of arms, shield, emblem or banner.

BRASS

The term applied to Roman coins according to their size whether brass or bronze. 1st brass-sestertius, 2nd brass-dupondius, 3rd brass-semis.

BRONZE

An alloy of 95 parts-copper, 4 parts-tin and 1 part zinc. A somewhat similar mixture was employed by Greeks and Romans.

CADUCEUS

A herald’s wand or staff.

CENTENIONALIS

A bronze coin slightly washed silver. The 1/100th part of the silver siliqua.

CHALUS

The earliest Greek copper coin and the 1/8 part of the obol.

CHALICE

A goblet or vessel for wine.

CHLAMYS

A short military cloak worn over the cuirass and fastened with a buckle

CISTOPHORUS

A silver coin valued at 3 denarii.

CONOB

The mint mark of Constantinople.

CROSS POTENT

A cross standing center-full face.

CUIRASS

A form of military armour.

DARIC

A gold coin which is supposed to have obtained its name from the Persian King Darius.

DEBASED COIN

Money that is lowered in weight and character.

DECALITRON

The Corinthian state from Pollix, was so called in Sicily because it equaled 10 litrae of the native standard.

DECARGYRUS

A Roman silver coin the value of the siliqua.

DENARIUS

A Roman silver coin first issued in 268 BC. The value constantly changed; under Augustus 84 to the pound, under Sept. Severus 105 to the pound.

DEVICE

The principal object represented on a coin.

DIASPORA

Jews in exile from Jerusalem.

DIDRACHM

A silver coin of the value of 2 drachmai.

DIOBOL

A liver coin equal to 2 oboli.

DRACHM

The unit of silver coinage of Greece equal to 6 oboli.

DUPONDIUS

A multiple of the Roman “AS” after the 1st reduction (sestertius). Continued to be coined under the Roman emperors in brass. It was distinguished by placing a radiate crown upon the emperor. Discontinued under Trajan Decius and Trebonianus.

ELECTRUM

A natural alloy of gold and silver emplyed by the Ionian Greeks. Found in considerable quantities in the river Pactolus in Lydia. The electrum of Asia Minor contained approximately 27% silver.

ELECTRUM ASPRON TRACHY

Debased from the gold hyperpyron to 1/3rd around 1092 AD. Further debased in 1185 AD. Did not survive after 1204 AD.

ETHNARCH

A ruler of an ethnic group in a province under Rome. Ethrog – A citron, a fruit like a lemon.

EXERGUE

The lower segment, usually found on the reverse of a coin, and sometimes separated by a horizontal bar.

F.D.C

Fleur de Coin, a French term which signifies the coin is in mint state as struck at the mint.

FOLLIS

Copper coin of Rome – 180th part of the solidus. Equal to 40 nummi of the Byzantine.

GLOBAS CRUCIGER

An orb usually surmounted by a cross.

HELLENISTIC

Of Greek history, language, culture and ideals after Alexander the Great.

HEMIDRACHM

A Greek silver coin equal to of the drachm, also called a triobol.

HEMIOBOL

A Gree bronze coin equal to an obol. Hemistater – The of the stater.

HEMITETARTE

The 1/8th of the gold stater. Hever Hayehudim – “Community of the Jews.”

HEXADRACHM

A Greek silver coin equal to 6 drachmai.

HEXASTATER

The demonination of 6 staters, also known as the dodekadrachm.

HYPERPYRON

The gold coin of Byzantium debased in 1092 AD from the stamenon nomisma. The last gold hyperpyra were struck during the years 1347-53 AD and the fineness had fallen to a mere 11 carats. The hyperpyron then became a silver coin.

INCUSE

The process by which the design or pattern is impressed into the surface of a coin – as opposed to coins in relief.

JUGATE

Refers to two or more heads or bust overlapping.

LABARUM

A standard or banner.

LAUREATE

A head wearing laurel wreath; often refers to a victory of a triumphant monarch.

LEAGUE COINAGE

A multiple of the Roman “AS” after the 1st reduction (sestertius). Continued to be coined under the Roman emperors in brass. It was distinguished by placing a radiate crown upon the emperor. Discontinued under Trajan Decius and Trebonianus.

LEBES

A ritual bowl used in pagan religious ceremonies.

LEGEND

The words used around the periphery of a coin for descriptive and identification purposed.

LEPTON (MITE)

Small bronze coin. Originally the smallest practical weight applied to gold and silver. The word “mite” was employed because the coin was so small in size.

LITRA

The bronze basis of Sicily corresponding to the Roman pound. The bronze litra equals 12 oinkia. The silver litra was 1/10th of the Greek stater.

LITUUS

An Augur’s (soothsayer) wand.

LOROS

A defensive armour.

LULAV

A palm branch, myrtle and willow tied together.

MEHORAH

A seven-branched candelabra.

MILIARNESE

A silver coin introduced by Constantine the Great with a value of 1/14th of a solidus. It was later raised in weight to 1/12th of a solidus.

MINT STATE

Perfect pristine condition as struck and released by the mint.

MITE

An expression used to indicate a very small unit of monetary value. Often referred to as the “the widow’s mite.”

MODIUS

A bushel measure for wheat, corn, etc.

NIMBUS CRUCIGER

A halo with a cross.

NOMISMA

The Greek generic term for money also the Greek name for the solidus. The standard gold coin of the late Roman and Byzantine empires.

NUMMUS

In Latin, a generic form for money and the name applied to the chief current coin. A copper coin of Byzantine.

OBOL

The silver coin of Greece equal to 1/6th of the drachm. In Roman times degenerated into a bronze coin.

OBVERSE

The front of “heads” side of a coin. The main device will usually be a bust or a coat of arms.

OCTADRACHM

A multiple of 8 drachmai of Greece.

PALLIUM

An open vestment used as a cloak.

PATINA

An oxidation produced by certain soils and moisture upon copper coins. The oxidation takes the color according to the materials which have affected the surface of the coins.

PECUNIA

The Latin word for money. In the 3rd Century it was used to define the Roman copper money.

PENTANUMMIUM

A copper coin of the Byzantine equal to 5 nummi or 1/20th of the follies. Planchet Flat disc onto which a design is stamped to make a coin.

PATERA

A dish or bowl used by the Romans at their religious ceremonies.

PROCURATO

Governo or administrato sent by Rome to its outlying districts.

QUADRANS

The Roman 4th part of the bronze “AS.”

QUADRIGA

A four-horse chariot.

QUINARIUS

A Roman silver coin equal to of the denarius. Also a Roman gold coin equal to the weight of the aureus.

RADIATED

The wearing of a crown of golden rays. Relief – The raised portion of the design on a coin.

REVERSE

The back or “tails” side of a coin.

RIM

The thin line where border and edge meet.

SCRIPULUM

The name given to the earliest Roman gold coin issued about 206 BC. It was succeeded by the aureus.

SCYPHATE

The appearance of a shallow bowl (cup-shaped), by the use of a convex and concave die. Used extensively by the Byzantine empire of the 11th and 12th centuries.

SEMIS

The of the Roman “AS” of a weight of 6 ounces of bronze.

SEMISSIS

The of the gold solidus.

SESTERTIUS

A bronze coin of Imperial Rome. It became the recognized money of account and is frequently referred to as the “nummus.”

SHEKEL

Originally a weight. Incorporated into a monetary system in Judaea. Its value was fixed at 4 drachmai according to the standards of Tyre.

SIGIO

A Persian silver coin equal to 1/20th of a gold daric. Another name for the early Persian shekel.

SILIQUA

A silver coin equal to 1/24th of a solidus. Simpulum – A libation ladle used in Roman religious services.

SOLIDUS

The standard gold coin of the late Roman empire starting in 312 AD in the reign of Constantine.

STATER

The unit of gold and silver coinage of Greece. The silver stater varied according to locality.

TARTARON

A term applied in late Roman times to a bronze coin.

TETARTEMORION

The 1/4th of the obol and 1/24th of the drachm in Greece.

TETARTERON

The 1/4th of solidus, first coin minted by Nicephorus I, of Byzantium.

TETRADRACHM

A silver coin representing the multiple of 4 drachmai, it became the most widely circulated coin of the Greeks.

TETRARCH

The rule, subordinate prince or governor of a province under Rome.

THYMIATERION

A kind of incence burner used by the Romans in religious ceremonies.

TRACHY

The scyphate electrum aspron trachy was replaced by a scyphate silver trachy in the empire of Nicaea around 1208 AD.

UNICA

A bronze Roman coin equal to 1/12th of the “AS.”

VARIETY

A major or minor variation in a design or tuype of coin caused intentionally or by error.

VICTORIATUS

A silver coin equal to 3/4th of the denarius issued originally about 228 BC.

ZION

Historically regarded by Jews as a symbol of the center of Jewish national life in Jerusalem.