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Historical Article

Ionia - Origin of Coinage. Celebrated Coins of Phanes



The celebrated coins of Phanes are known to be amongst the earliest of Greek coins, for a hemihekte of the issue was found in the famous foundation deposit of the temple of Artemis at Ephesos. It is this find spot, along with the design of the grazing stag (an animal associated with Artemis), that has suggested Ephesos as the mint.

The Phanes coinage, as presently known, consists of seven denominations, from stater down to 1/96 stater, with some denominations occurring in different varieties (the stag facing in different directions and sometimes associated with the symbol of a pentagram or a triad of pellets). Only the two largest denominations bear the name of Phanes. The three known staters carry the legend ΦΑΝΕΟΣ ΕΜΙ ΣΗΜΑ (or similar) (“I am the badge of Phanes”), and the four known trites (third staters) bear just the name ΦΑΝΕΟΣ (“Of Phanes”). The use of a personal name at this early point in the development of coinage is instructive. We know from these coins that the responsibility for the issue was personal – whether the issuer was an official or a private individual – rather than collective (the citizenry as a whole).

Despite the absence of a legend on the smaller denominations, the whole series is linked beyond doubt by the consistent type of the stag, by the common weight standard, and by the occasional use of the same reverse punch on different denominations within the series.

Apart from the more frequently encountered 1/24 stater, all the denominations are very rare, each known by only a handful of examples

IONIA, Ephesos. Phanes. Circa 620-600 BC. EL Trite (4.72 gm). ΦΑΝΕΟΣ retrograde, stag grazing right, its dappled coat indicated by indentations on the body / Two incuse punches, each with raised intersecting lines. Kraay, ACGC 54 = Weidauer 40 (British Museum Collection; E.S.G. Robinson, BMQ 15, 1952, pg. 48ff, and E.S.G. Robinson, ANS Centennial Publication, 1958, pg. 56, pl. 39, 3); SNG Munich 14; Tkalec Auction (19 February 2001), lot 116 (same obverse die and reverse punches); cf. Boston MFA 1816 = Weidauer 37 (Hemihekte with same punch); cf. Tkalec Auction (29 February 2000), lot 114 (stater with two outer punches identical).