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Cast Wheel Coin Proto-Money

247, Lot: 15. Estimate $100.
Sold for $96. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

MOESIA, Istros. Denomination set of cast Æ Wheel Coins. Late 5th century BC. All coins: wheel (or solar disk) with four spokes and with raised central hub / ΙΣΤ across field (the second retrograde). Three included:

a) Æ 15mm (1.47 g). SNG Black Sea 220.

b) Æ 13mm (1.83 g). SNG Black Sea 221-222.

c) Æ 8mm (0.73 g). SNG Black Sea 223-224.

. Average VF, typical light roughness.

The Milesian colonies of Olbia, Borysthenes, Istros, Odessos, and Apollonia, founded on the western Black sea coast in the 7th century BC, were once the central points of exchange and trade between the Greeks and local Scythian and Thracian populations. With the invention of coinage as a form of exchange of goods, a few types of pre-monetary items were introduced: the ubiquitous ‘dolphins’ and the scarcer ‘arrowheads’ and ‘wheel-coins’, all cast in copper. All were originally thought to have been from Olbia, but more recent hoard evidence indicates the latter were produced primarily at Istros and Apollonia. These pieces remained in circulation in the west Pontic area for about two centuries, until being finally replaced by struck coinage. Recent publications of finds from South Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Romania limited the circulation area of these proto-monies to the narrow coastal strip along the western/north-western shores of the Black sea. Some scholars suggested the ‘arrowheads’ were produced there since Apollo, with his bow and arrows, was the main deity who supervised the colonies of Miletus. As a god of archery, Apollo was well known with epithets as Aphetoros (“god of the bow”) and Argurotoxos (“with the silver bow”). These proto-money items are known in French as ‘monnaies–points de flèche’ or ‘flèche-monnaies’, but in English they are best known as 'arrowhead money'. For further discussion, cf. H. Bartlett-Wells, 'The Arrow-money of Thrace and South Russia' in: SAN 9/1, 1978, 6-9, 12; SAN 9/2, 24-26, and SAN 12/3, 1981, 53-54; A.N. Zograph, Ancient Coinage. The Ancient Coins of the Northern Black Sea Littoral, BAR Suppl. 33/2, 1977, 187-190 (on ‘dolphins’ of Olbia); S. Topalov, ‘Formes prémonetaires de moyens d’échange. Les flèches-monnaies couleés d’Apollonie du Pont VII-Ve s.av.n.e.’, (Sofia 1993); SNG Stancomb 24-27 (Apollonia), 128-130 (Istrus), and 334-341 (Olbia); S. Solovyov, ‘Monetary Circulation and the Political History of Archaic Borysthenes’, Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia, 12/1-2, (Leiden 2006), 63-75. See also D.M. Schaps, The Invention of Coinage and the Monetization of Greece (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005), for a general study on the invention of coinage.