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Cohen, Edward E. Dated Coins of Antiquity. A comprehensive catalogue of the coins and how their numbers came about. 2011. Hardbound. 656 pp., including appendices, drawings, maps, charts, and other illustrations; over 981 cataloged coins illustrated and more than 6,000 individually dated coins listed (GR, RR). (GR346)

Dated Coins of Antiquity (DCA) is a substantially complete catalog of dated coins struck before the lifetime of Jesus Christ. Where a coin series such as the Biblical shekel of Tyre shown below crosses the millennium divide of 1 BC/AD 1, the catalog continues to its last dated coin in the AD era. The coins of antiquity used various kinds of numbers and more than 50 calendar systems for dating that have no familiarity to most modern readers. The dates and their numerals on the coins serve as historical markers for early advances in recording time. The book explores how the Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians, Nabataeans and Jews struggled to understand their own numbers as well as those of their competitors or conquerors. Especially the Greeks and Romans across Europe, Asia and Africa experimented with their numbers. Their calendars and notations for numbers varied among cities and even over time in the same city. As expected, they sometimes made mistakes when switching to different kinds of numbers.

Starting with the first dated coin struck by Zankle, Sicily in 494/493 BC, this book lists all coins displaying annual or monthly dates expressed in numbers or words. Nearly 100 issuing states or authorities are represented. The catalog describes more than 900 different type coins struck in gold, silver and bronze, exceeding 6,000 different dated coins, dozens of which are cited in no other catalog. It corrects the misreading of numerals in dates from earlier references on Ptolemaic Egypt and Alexandrian Sidon using Greek numbers, and early Tyre dated with Phoenician numbers. It also updates the BC dating of coins, such as those from Cappadocia, Cyprus, and Elymais, according to current research. Newly reported dates including photographs for the shekels and half shekels of Tyre are extensive. The catalog and a brief history of numbers draw on nearly 400 numismatic, history and science books and journals, more than a thousand coin auction catalogs, hundreds of Internet sales sites and the author's collection.

The author of Dated Coins of Antiquity (DCA) has prepared a supplement for free download. Among the more popular sections of DCA (pages 501 to 515) has been the date and its rarity listing for the silver shekels of Tyre and the smaller half, quarter and eighth shekels bearing the local god Melkart. These coins were struck nearly continuously for 191 years, from 126 BC to 66 AD. In addition to the date written with Greek letters, most of these coins also carry a monogram (usually also in Greek letters) and a Phoenician letter - Aleph or Bet. This first photographic supplement encompasses more than 500 different varieties of these coins, defined by their varying dates, monograms, Phoenician letters and the four denominations in silver. With the rarity listing of dates in DCA, this supplement presents the most comprehensive catalog of the reported dates, monograms and varieties for the shekels of Tyre and its minor silver denominations.

Supplement on Shekels of Tyre Available for Free Download: "Dated Coins of Antiquity, Shekels of Tyre - Supplemental Photographs (Release 2)"

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Reprinted with permission of the Celator

Dated Coins of Antiquity. A comprehensive catalogue of the coins and how their numbers came about by Edward E. Cohen. Classical Numismatic Group, Inc., Lancaster, PA, 2011. 656 pages, including appendices, drawings, maps and charts; illustrations throughout. Hardbound. $165 from the publisher.

Reviewed by David Vagi

Edward Cohen's new work on dated ancient coins is both practical and illuminating, and no doubt will be warmly received. Not only does it provide a wealth of information, but the format and writing style are direct, concise, and easy to digest, making it simple to use and a pleasure to read.

On the surface, Dated Coins of Antiquity (DCA) is a quick reference for the identification of most any dated ancient coin produced prior to 1 BC/AD 1 –the kind of work which has been sorely lacking since the modern study of ancient coins began during the Renaissance (and which is only possible now, after so many centuries of dutiful research). But it is far more than that. The further one delves into its pages, the more one discovers–always the sign of an extraordinary work destined to have a long shelf life.

The book is principally devoted to Greek and Near Eastern coinage struck prior to end of the BC era, yet it offers much broader coverage than one might expect given its main focus. Indeed, it breaks through that simple definition on so many occasions that it is hard to define its parameters without providing a list of the exceptions.

In all, more than 6,000 dated issues are listed, consisting of nearly 1,000 different types. Most every type is shown with an illustration, and when a coin series that begins in the BC era continues beyond the 1 BC/AD 1 demarcation, Cohen carries that series to its conclusion.

Cohen has used most (if not all) the best references for dated coins, and has distilled the conclusions of those several hundred works into his own concise format. As such, DCA will become the short-cut of choice for any working numismatist who is cataloging a dated Greek coin.

DCA will change the way many numismatists work: initial cataloging efforts will be made using this book, and specialized references will be consulted only for needs beyond the basics, such as die matching and pedigree research, or listing of references not cited in DCA.

Like all coin books that offer broad surveys, DCA relies principally on research that has already been published. However, the originality of Cohen's work is best seen in the consistent formula by which he presents his conclusions, and the great task he has undertaken to bring such diverse material under a single title.

In addition to collecting material, Cohen offers corrections to misread numerals in dates for some Ptolemaic coins, Sidonian coins under Macedonian rule, and early Tyrian coins. He also provides current views on dating for certain coins of Cappadocia, Cyprus, and Elymais, and provides an excellent corpus of known dates for later Tyrian silver, including rarity ratings (in this case) by date.

Determining the date of a legible coin will be easy once readers become familiar with Cohen's format. Along with abundant introductory material, Cohen provides instructive tables of Greek and Phoenician alphabetic numbers and Roman and Nabataean numerals. The coin listings for each issuer (be it a ruler, a city, etc.) begin with a brief introduction to the series followed by a description of the coin type(s) and tables that contain all of the critical information. Typically, this includes the dating information that appears on the coin, the translation of that date into familiar BC or AD years, and important supplementary information, such as the sources for known specimens.

The coin listings in DCA are divided into sections based upon the format of dates presented on the coins. A brief section is devoted to certain coins from Zankle (Messana) in Sicily, the island of Samos, Sidon in Phoenicia, and a handful of coins of Ptolemy II struck prior to 265 BC, all of which use Greek alphabetic numerals in a linear fashion, such that follow the Greek alphabet in order.

These unusual cases are followed by the largest portion of the catalog, which lists coins dated with Greek additive numbers. This is the usual system by which dates on Greek coins are presented. In this format, when tens (and hundreds) are exceeded in a count, additional letters with numeric equivalents are added to the formula, such that the year 148 is represented as PMH, with P having the value of 100, M being 40, and H being 8. An excellent feature of this section is that Cohen often indicates whether the date is constructed left-to-right or right-to-left. This feature will be of great value to researchers, and has already led Cohen to suggest that the late Tyrian shekels with the KP monogram were struck at a mint in Southern Judaea since the dates read left-to-right–a common practice in Southern Judaea, but alien to areas influenced by the Seleucids, including Tyre.

Exhaustive sections are presented for Ptolemaic Egypt, the Seleucids, civic tetradrachms using the designs introduced by Alexander the Great, and cistophori struck before and after the formation of the Roman province of Asia. The Greek additive numbers section continues with 178 pages devoted to other civic issues and royal coins from Asia and Europe, all organized alphabetically.

The next 138 pages form a section entitled “transitions from Phoenician or other numbers to Greek Additive numbers.” It lists coins of cities that used either exclusively the Phoenician numbering system or began with Phoenician and transitioned into the Greek system. The main cities described in this section are Ake, Aradus, Gabala, Sidon and Tyre.

All of this is supplemented with sections for dated coins using Roman numerals (principally from the Imperatorial period) and Nabataean numbers. There is a brief section for coins of Athens and Mylasa bearing monthly dates (those of the Pontic King Mithradates VI are described separately in the work), and one for coins that use Greek alphabetic numbers for non-temporal purposes.

Every section in this book is valuable and well composed, and the listings for some issues–including royal coins of Ptolemaic Egypt, Cappadocia, Pontus, Nabataea, and Characene, and the Pergamene & pre-Imperial cistophori–are especially welcome since their coverage is notoriously plagued by difficult presentations in the standard references or by conflicting views in the academic community.

When scholarly conflicts persist in the dating of a series of coins, Cohen provides his opinion on the subject, but does not fail to mention the nature of the dispute. This is responsible and refreshing, as all too often an author will pick one view and present it as if it is the correct view without mentioning any conflicting perspectives.

The trove of educational material beyond the catalog listings is so diverse as to resist easy summary. In addition to discussions that appear before the listings for each series, there are more than 85 pages of supplementary material divided between introductory sections and appendices. An exhaustive bibliography is also provided, along with an index of location names (though one wishes names of historical figures had been included as well).

To summarize: DCA is an extraordinary book that will be of immediate and lasting value to any student of ancient coinage. Furthermore, it is an economical and convenient substitute for the large library one would otherwise have to build to cover so many diverse series of dated ancient coins.