The coin is a piece of metal of a given weight; now, since the use of money followed the use of metal by weight, so already the primitive coins are cut according to a scale of weights, that is, according to the weight system of the country. In the vast Mediterranean area, there were many systems of weight in use, indigenous and imported, from which an equal number of monetary systems were derived. These take their name from the city or the people who first adopted them, or from the most important city that made use of them; we thus have the Persian, Babylonian, Phoenician, Eginetic, Chalkidian, Achaean, Phocese, Corinthian, Attic, Rhodium, Ptolemaic, Euboic systems, etc.
To regulate the mutual condition of the gold and silver coin struck and current on the same market, two systems were tried and adopted: the bimetallic system and the monometallic system. The first system, adopted by the Achaemenids, claimed to establish a fixed and invariable relationship between the two metals, by requiring by law that a gold coin, of a given weight, was worth a certain number of silver coins, despite any variation of the commercial value of the two metals. This was followed by the export of the currency, whose metallic value had risen beyond the monetary value, which led to subsequent demonetizations of one of the two metals. The gold-deprived Greeks and especially the Athenians, with the wonderful instinct of commerce and the great experience of banking operations, adopted a different solution to the problem. That is, they placed and kept silver as the basis of their system and let gold run. which was also the preferred instrument of exchange for the entire period from Pericles to Alexander, in the form of bars and foreign currency, the rate of which the bank freely fixed, that is, as a commodity by weight. So too did the few gold coins that Athens and other Greek states minted at certain times, so it can be said that in general only the monarchies of Lydia and Persia, of Cyprus and then of Macedonia, Syria and Egypt coined the gold in continuous and regular series, as well as a few other essentially commercial centers, such as Cizico, Lampsaco, etc.
The most evident characteristics of the coin of the archaic period are, together, the ovoid shape of the round and the incused square of the reverse, that is the depression, more often rectangular and with a rough bottom, which takes the place of the figuration, which is introduced at the back. In fact, the incused rectangle of the Persian darics and shekels, those of the turtles of Aegina, of the pegasi of Corinth, of the didrammas of Chalcis and of Eretria, of the golden, electro and silver staters of Lydia, of the cyzicens are characteristic. and of the states of Lampsacus, Thasos, Neapolis of Macedonia, etc. The primitive coins had a flattened ovoid shape, with thick and stocky edges, irregularly cut; this shape was later regularized, so as to become a flattened round, almost perfectly circular, on whose two faces, in a more or less accentuated relief, the figures and the legend emerge. The evolution of the Greek currency, after the form that soon stabilizes, essentially concerns the typological element, in which for us lies the greatest interest.
The type of the Greek coin was from the beginning the guarantee sign of the coin, a solemn affirmation by the issuing body that the coin was of the right weight and of good metal. With the Greeks religion being the foundation of life in all its manifold manifestations, money could not fail to bear a sign of this religious sentiment; in the immense majority the monetary types are in fact marked by mythology and cult; the divinity, represented first by its symbol and then by its effigy, symbol and effigy which are at the same time the emblem of the city, guarantees the coin itself, placed under its protection. The cone engraver works under the control and authority of the state; his is an official art for purity, sobriety.
The types are drawn from the animal and plant world and the inanimate world of human artifacts; last but not least, the human figure appears.
Of the first group we have a good number of real and fantastic animals: the turtle in Aegina, the seal in Phocaea, the tuna in Cyzicus, the cow, the calf, the goat, the wolf, the horse on the primitive series of the Macedonian tribes, the Thrace, Thessaly and Crete; the octopus, the cuttlefish in Euboea, the owl in Athens, the winged panther, the winged griffin, the pegasus in Panticapeus, in Abdera of Thrace, in Corinth; the dove in Sicyon, the eagle in Elis, in Chalcis of Euboea, the sphinx in Chios, the crab in Kos, the chimera in Sicyon and Corinth, the dolphins, the wolf in Argos, the bee in Ephesus, the dog in Cidonia of Crete, the rooster in Dardano, the swan in Clazomenes, the snake in Amantía and Byllís, the bull in Epirus, sea monsters in Itano in Crete, etc.
The vine shoot of Mende of Macedonia and Maronea of Thrace, the cluster of Corcira, the olive tree of Athens, the palm of Gortina and Ierapitna, the rose of Rhodes, the pomegranate of Side, the silphium of Cyrene, etc., and the crowns of laurel, oak, spikes, algae which enclose the types and which adorn the effigy of the most various divinities.
The numerous types that repeat objects of all kinds belong to the inanimate world: amphorae, chalices, cups, shields, axes, double-headed, maces, bows, lyres, lightning bolts, stars, tripods, torches, ships or parts of them, altars, temples, etc.