Ancient Coins: The Money of History Offers Profits of Tomorrow

James DiGeorgia

I started collecting coins at the tender age of 6. At 14, I was buying, selling and trading with dealers across the United States. I was lucky enough to catch the 1974-’80 bull market and make my first million dollars before I finished high school.

Now, 40-ish years later, I’ve bought and sold countless millions in rare coins and precious metals. I know these markets inside and out, so people often ask me, "James, what’s your favorite gold coin right now?"

It’s a tough question. I love rare U.S. gold coins — especially the $20 St. Gaudens and the $10 Indians, both struck from 1907 through 1933. Yet, after four decades of experience, I am still mesmerized by uncirculated, mint-state ancient Greek and Roman Ancient coins.

Whether you’re an avid coin collector or you’re looking to start a potentially very profitable hobby, a great first (or next) step to take is to learn — and potentially own a piece of — the rich history behind …

The Gold of Alexander the Great

Growing up in here in the States, U.S. rare coins were my first interest as a child. They were still my center of attention when I became a coin dealer. It was only in the last 20 years, when I began traveling to Europe on business that I learned about ancient numismatics.

While ancient Greek and Roman coins are common, I was surprised to learn how many are available in Mint State or even Gem Mint State condition. These are museum-quality gold and silver coins, some 2,000 and even 2,500 years old!

Try to envision the history these coins have seen. They survived countless wars, natural disasters, military occupations, economic collapses … and even earthquakes, floods and human dislocations.

Imagine holding a gold coin in your hand that is hundreds of times scarcer than even a $2.50 gold coin.

Yet, despite being over 2,200 years old, this coin is in the same condition as the day it was struck over two millennia ago. Seeing it blew my mind!

I became an avid collector of ancient rare coins about 10 years ago. The first ancient coin I bought was an Alexander the Great Gold Stater. ("Stater" means "soldier.")

When I figured out just how inexpensive these coins were compared to other ancient art like murals, paintings, jewelry, vases and military collectibles — much less the high-priced U.S. rare gold coins — I was hooked!

Over the past decade, I’ve searched high and low for really amazing, mint-state quality silver and gold coins from ancient Greece and Rome. They’re hard to find — much harder than U.S. or post-1,500 A.D. European coins — but they do exist.

After years scouring museum sales, archeological digs and famous collections at auction, I found several of these Alexander the Great Staters.

About the size of a triple-thick U.S. dime, these coins are a high-relief design. They were hand-struck at a dozen or so mints around Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

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History in Your Hands

Alexander III of Macedon, better known as "the Great," lived from 356-323 B.C. He was one of the most-significant humans in history. Original, tangible relics of his empire could be the investment opportunity of a lifetime.

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While he died before turning 33, Alexander conquered almost all the known world of his time. He sent history in a new direction, truly earning the title of "Great."

Unlike many conquerors, Alexander did not plunge his conquests into chaos and slavery. He respected their religion, customs and ways of life.

Alexander spread his Hellenic culture by giving the public a choice. Many more embraced it voluntarily than would have at the point of a sword.

To Alexander, persuasion was better than coercion.

To pay his vast armies and promote commerce, Alexander established gold, silver and bronze mints in more than a dozen key cities of his expanding kingdom. Among the coins struck during his lifetime, and for at least a decade after his death, are my favorites: the gold "Staters."

Rare coin collectors and dealers classify these as MACEDON KINGDOM, ALEXANDER III, AV STATER, 336-323 B.C. The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) certifies them by naming the mint if possible and whether they are "Lifetime," "Lifetime — Early Posthumous" or "Posthumous." The "AV" in the description means gold.

These coins are VERY rare in Gem and Choice Mint State condition. They are also found Mint State condition. You can usually find a few examples on the market if you know where to look.

Pictured here is Kingdom of Macedon Alexander III, the Great, 336-323 B.C. Gold AV Stater (8.60 gm) graded Gem Mint State Condition Strike 4 out of 5 and Surface 5 out of 5.

Like many of these coins, no one knows exactly which Macedonian mint struck this particular coin. Some mints were mobile and followed different armies.

Like all these coins, the obverse features the goddess Athena facing right. She wears a triple-crested Corinthian helmet, adorned with coiled serpent, along with an earring and necklace.

The reverse side features Alexander’s name in great (ΑΛΕΞΑΝ ΔΡΟΥ). Standing to the left is Nike, goddess of victory. She holds a laurel wreath in her right hand to symbolize victory. In her left hand, she holds what some scholars interpret as a stylis (part of the stern of a Greek ship), others a ship’s mast.

The stylis alludes to Greece’s great naval victory over Persia at the Battle of Salamis. This event allowed Greek and Western civilization to continue experimenting with democracy, individualism, rationalism, and the separation of political and religious authority.

MACEDON KINGDOM, ALEXANDER III 336-323 B.C., AV STATER, NGC Graded Gem Mint State, Strike 4/4, Surface is a Perfect 5/5

The coin in this picture is an extraordinary specimen, perfectly centered, fully struck in very high relief and extremely radiant. It is hard to imagine how a coin over 2,300 years old can be in such amazing condition.

The Ancient Greek Stater designs can vary. This one depicts two female symbols of strength.

  • The strong and beautiful Athena, goddess of wisdom and warfare, would eventually morph into Roma, the patron goddess of Rome.
  • Nike, goddess of victory, with spectacular body-length wings, would later evolve into a Christian angel.

These coins, when they are available, usually sell in the $34,500 to $42,500 range. Exceptional examples can fetch as much as $75,000.

While I do buy and sell coins like this Amazing Stater, you can also look on eBay or for coin dealers who buy and sell NGC-graded ancient coins.

Important Note: Do not buy coins unless they are NGC-certified.

You should only buy coins graded by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC). Many dealers call coins "Gem Mint State" that are really in far less valuable "Almost Uncirculated" condition. NGC designates grade, strike quality and surface quality.

Alexander the Great died thousands of years ago — but coins from his empire live on today.

These coins are history itself. That’s why they are my favorites.

James DiGeorgia

P.S. In my newest special report — "The Most-Exciting Numismatic Coin Buys for the Next Decade" — I detail the 8 next big plays in rare gold and silver coins. To get your copy … and to take my Global Resource Hunter newsletter for a test-drive at the same time at a special low price … simply click this link here.

Your thoughts on “Ancient Coins: The Money of History Offers Profits of Tomorrow”

  1. Hi James
    Would love to buy some Ancient Greek gold coins can you help me out?
    All so have lots of Us gold coins old and new.
    Loved your article.


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