The Greeks first struck coins as early as 680 BCE, which is often referred to as the beginning of the period of archaic art. Coins from this period, which are often irregular rather than round, initially featured a punched geometric mark on one side and an animal such as a turtle, lion, or flying boar on the other.
Within a few hundred years, ancient Greek coins began to feature figures on both sides, such as on a coin that boasted four dolphins encircling the bust of Arethusa on the obverse and a pair of horses pulling a charioteer on the reverse.
Ancient Greek coins really came into their own between 415 and 336 BCE, and even 50 years or so beyond that. Bronze coins from this so-called fine art period included images of Apollo and other gods. Some of the most beautiful coins were struck in Syracuse on the island of Sicily, home to renowned engraver Kimon.
Denominations for ancient Greek coins were based on the drachm, pronounced ‘dram’. A dekadrachm was worth 10 times a drachm, a tetradrachm was worth four times, and so on. Fractional denominations for the drachm included the obol, which was worth one-sixth of a drachm, while the stater, which was often produced in gold, could have equal or even greater value than a drachm, depending on its size.