31 March 2022
Alexander the Great was perhaps the most successful military commander of all time, conquering a vast swathe of land as he expanded the Kingdom of Macedon, part of ancient Greece. His coins reflect this power and influence, as our guide reveals.
Alexander III of Macedon, better known as Alexander the Great was a brilliant military commander, and after years of campaigns helped stretch the borders of the Macedonian Empire as far as India.
He became king when he was just 20 years old, and died at the age of 32, having brought many territories, including the Persian Empire under Greek rule during his short but effective reign.
Alexander was the son of Philip II, who was instrumental in turning a previously chaotic region into an organised, forward-thinking kingdom.
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Alexander the Great coins
Such was Alexander's influence, coins featuring his name or likeness were issued for centuries after he died. As such, his coinage is often split into two categories: lifetime and posthumous.
During his life, the most common of his coins were silver drachms featuring the head of Heracles (son of Zeus) on one face and a seated Zeus with the king's name (often as 'ALEXANDROY') on the other.
Silver tetradrachms were also produced in vast numbers and usually featured the same design as the drachm.
The gold staters of the period were not quite as common as the silver pieces, and featured a different design. We see Athena (Olympian goddess of wisdom and war) wearing a Corinthian helmet on one side, and Nike (the winged goddess of victory), holding a laurel wreath and a stylis, on the other. The name 'Alexander' is also seen on the coin.
The coins of the Diadochi
The Diadochi was a group of Alexander's generals that profited from his advances across the globe, taking their territories to rule. Such was their respect for Alexander, they continued to mint similar coinage after his death, with millions of the coins being issued.
These coins can be differentiated from the 'lifetime' coins thanks to control marks or inscriptions detailing the leader responsible for the coin. Such leaders include:
- Seleucus I
- Ptolemy I
- Phillip III
The coins of Lysimachos are particularly sought after, as the portrait on the coin is said to be that of Alexander himself.
How much do Alexander the Great coins cost?
As with any coin, examples can vary in condition and scarcity, and hence vary in value too.
Certain designs can be bought for around £50, whilst beautiful and rare examples can fetch prices in the tens of thousands.
Because of the complexity of the coins, with pieces being minted both during and after Alexander's death, some of which are very similar in design, collecting the coins can be a challenge.
There are also many fakes on the market, sometimes openly sold as 'replicas' and so speaking to a trusted coin dealer is always recommended.