How Are Ancient Coins Found and Preserved?

Coins from Ancient Empires managed to survive war, famine, and time itself, before making their way to modern collectors. This article will outline not only how such coins are found, but also how they are preserved for future generations.

How are ancient coins graded?


In the past, ancient coins were never “slabbed and graded.” Since the coins have lasted thousands of years, there isn’t the fear that the coin’s condition will be adversely affected while in a collection. Today, more and more collectors prefer to have the coin protected, authenticated, and graded by a professional grading service.


Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) has experts in ancient coins who research each coin and then place it on a slab with a label giving its date, place of origin, and grade. The grade is determined by what NGC Ancients call the “three S’s”:

NGC Roman Empire LabelNGC Roman Empire Label

1) Strike – This is an indication of how well the image is centered and the quality of the strike. Factors like the state of the die, planchet imperfections, and evenness of the strike, among others, are considered here. 


2) Surface – This takes into account three phrases of an ancient coin’s life: surviving minting characteristics, circulation, and burial. Elements considered when determining the Surface quality include cleaning, marks, scratches, luster, corrosion, and porosity,


3) Style– this is an indication of the visual impact of the design determined by the quality of its engraving and composition.


How are ancient coins found?

How are ancient coins found?How are ancient coins found?

During the GreekRoman, and Byzantine Empires, much of a person’s wealth was in coins. To safeguard their coins, people often buried their coins in a secret place. Armies often buried large quantities of coins when they went into battle – hoping to retrieve them after the battle. Hence many of the coins that have been found since then have been in large groups.  When these coins are found in an official archaeological dig, the coins are usually preserved in museums. But there are hoards that do reach the ancient coin market. Each country has its own laws concerning what one should do if he or she finds coins by chance. Coins that come from documented hoards are a favorite of collectors and sell at a premium.

Does Metal Content Matter in Ancient Coins?


The simple answer is no. Availability overrides the metal content. Do gold coins usually sell for more than silver (and silver more than bronze)? Yes. But that is caused more from the rarity of gold over silver coins and that gold coins are simply more beautiful and more well preserved. The actual weight of the precious metal in an ancient coin has almost no impact on its value.

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