Electrum stater inscribed with the name of Phanes

Greek, late 7th-early 6th century BC
From western Asia Minor (modern Turkey)

One the very earliest coins with a legend

Touch the animation button on the left for a translation of the coin legend.

The western tradition of coinage began in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), in the late seventh century BC. Prior to the existence of coinage, precious metal had been used as money, but only as ingots, rings, wire and other forms. These had been cut up at the point of sale to make the right weight for the transaction. The great advance of coinage was to provide a form of precious metal of known weight which could be commonly accepted as having a set value.

In antiquity, just as today, everyone had to trust the coins in order for this system to work. People had to know their worth and who had produced them. Many of the designs that occur on early coins bear a remarkable resemblance to seals (stamps). Apparently these markings were attempts to guarantee the quality of the metal in the coins.

The inscription on this extremely rare coin seems to confirm this interpretation. It is written right-to-left with mirror-image Greek letters, and translates 'I am the badge of Phanes'. It is not known who Phanes was but he was presumably a powerful and wealthy individual whose name conjured up trust in the community that used these coins. The appearance of the stag on the coin has led some to attribute this coin to the city of Ephesos, where there was a strong cult of Artemis, to whom the stag was sacred. If the stag is the personal badge of Phanes, however, the case for Ephesos is weakened.

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More information


C.M. Kraay, Archaic and Classical Greek co (London, Methuen, 1976)

I.A. Carradice, Greek coins (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)

I.A. Carradice and M.J. Price, Coinage in the Greek world (London, Seaby, 1988)


Diameter: 21.000 mm
Weight: 14.029 g

Museum number

CM BMC Ephesus 1 (BNK.950)



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