Holed coin

Founded 20-Mar-2010
Last update 4-Nov-2013

Coin References

Identification Number DE2-AR-02

Ruler: Demetrios II, 1st reign
Mint: Antioch on the Orontes1
Period: 145/4 BC
Denomination: AR Drachm
Weight: 3.98 g
Diameter: 17 - 18 mm
Obverse: Diademed head of Demetrios II right; dotted border
Reverse: ‘[Β]ΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ [Δ]ΗΜΗΤΡΙ[Ο]Υ’ right, ‘[ΘΕ]ΟΥ [ΦΙΛ]ΑΔΕΛΦΟΥ [ΝΙΚΑ]ΤΟΡΟΣ’ left (“of King Demetrios, God loving one’s brother, the Victor”); nude Apollo seated left on omphalos2, holding arrow in outstretched right hand and resting left hand on bow; control mark in inner left field under Apollo’s arm; control mark under Apollo’s right leg; Seleukid date ΗΞΡ (year 168 of the Seleukid Era, i.e. 145/4 BC)3 in exergue
Die axis:
References: Houghton, Lorber and Hoover, SC II, 1908.4 var. (unrecorded secondary control mark); Houghton, CSE, 221 var. (different secondary control mark); SNG Spaer, 1602-1606 var. (different secondary control marks); Newell, SMA, 210-213 var. (different secondary control marks); BMC 4, p. 59, Nos. 11-13 var. (different secondary control marks); Hunterian Coll. III, p. 68, No. 3 var. (wreath instead of dotted border on the obverse, different secondary control mark)
Notes: (1) The central position of the hole and its cross-section indicate that the coin was nailed to something by a square nail (maybe as a decoration or as a sacrifice to a deity).
  (2) A bronze coin of the Bactrian king Agathocles with a similar central square hole is presented in Holt, Lost World of the Golden King, p. 204 and Fig. 25 on p. 205. Holt makes the following comment about Bactrian bronze and cupronickel coins drilled or cut through the center with no regard for sparing the images: “These may have been strung on a cord or nailed or riveted to some object as a decoration or charm. It cannot be certain whether this kind of defacement rendered a coin unsuitable as currency, but it seems likely. In most instances, however, the holes have been positioned near an edge, without seriously affecting the types.” See pp. 204-206 for more information about holed Bactrian coins.

We can roughly estimate the loss of weight caused by the piercing of the coin. First suppose that all pierced metal was removed. Provided that the coin can be approximately taken as a homogeneous cylinder, the relative loss of its weight is equal to the area of the cross-section of the hole divided by the total area of the flan. The hole has an approximately square cross-section of the size about 3.1 mm by 3.1 mm, so that the area of the cross section is approximately 3.12 = 9.61 mm2. The flan can be approximated by a circle with a diameter of 17.5 mm (the average between the minimum and maximum diameters), so that its area is about π×(17.5/2)2 = 240.53 mm2. The ratio is therefore equal to 9.61/240.53 = 0.04. That is, the relative loss of the weight of the coin caused by its piercing is about 4%. Denote by W the supposed weight of the coin without the hole. The weight of the holed coin is 3.98 g, so that 3.98 = W - 0.04×W and we receive W = 3.98/0.96 = 4.15 g.

However, as it is visible on the photos above, the metal was partly displaced around the hole on the reverse. Thus, the relative weight loss is smaller than 4%, so that the supposed weight of the coin without the hole is somewhere between 3.98 to 4.15 g.


The control mark under Apollo’s right leg is unclear. It might be ΚΙ.



1 Antioch was founded about 300 BC by Seleukos I Nikator, the founder of the Seleukid Dynasty, and it became the principal capital of the Seleukid Empire. The city was named after a family name Antiochos, passed from his father to his son (Antiochos I Soter). There were a number of other cities by the same name and this Antioch was known as Antioch on the Orontes (i.e. the Orontes River, along which it was located).

2 The omphalos (“navel” in Greek) was a sacred stone at Delphi. It was supposed to mark the center of the earth. Similar stones were erected in several areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.

Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.16.3: What is called the Omphalus by the Delphians is made of white marble, and is said by the Delphians to be the center of all the earth.

3 The Seleukid Era is based on a lunar calendar, beginning with the autumn of 312 BC. It means that if x is a Seleukid year (and x<312) then the corresponding BC time interval is from 313–x to 312–x.

The beginning of the Seleukid Era was set as follows: In 311 BC, shortly after capturing Babylon, Seleukos I Nikator began the enumeration of his satrapal years there. However, after his decisive victory over Antigonos Monophthalmos in 307/6 BC, he backdated his “fictitious” first regnal year to coincide with Nisanu 1, 311 BC (New Year’s Day in the Babylonian calendar). This marked the antedated epoch of the Seleukid calendar according to the Babylonian reckoning. Later in 305/4 BC, when Seleukos I took the diadem and assumed the royal title “King”, he retained the numbering of his regnal years in Babylon but employed the Makedonian calendar and thus pushed his accession year back to Dios, 312 BC (Dios was the first month of the Makedonian calendar; it corresponds to October-November). This became the antedated epoch of the Seleukid era on the Macedonian calendar. (Assar, Recent Studies in Parthian History, Part I, p. 6)

The Seleukid Era was used at least until the first century AD in some Eastern countries.


Assar, Gholamreza F.:Recent Studies in Parthian History, Part I. The Celator, Vol. 14, No. 12 (December 2000), pp. 6-22.
Gardner, Percy:Catalogue of the Greek coins in the British Museum, Volume 4: The Seleucid Kings of Syria. London, 1878 (reprint, Arnaldo Forni, Bologna, 1963). (abbr. BMC 4)
Holt, Frank L.:Lost World of the Golden King. University of California Press, Berkeley - Los Angeles - London, 2012.
Houghton, Arthur:Coins of the Seleucid Empire from the Collection of Arthur Houghton. The American Numismatic Society, New York, 1983. (abbr. CSE)
Houghton, Arthur; Lorber, Catharine; Hoover, Oliver:Seleucid Coins, A Comprehensive Catalogue. Part II, Volumes 1 and 2. The American Numismatic Society, New York, in association with Classical Numismatic Group, Inc., Lancaster/London, 2008. (abbr. SC II)
Houghton, Arthur; Spaer, Arnold (with the assistance of Catharine Lorber):Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum. Israel I. The Arnold Spaer Collection of Seleucid Coins. Italo Vecchi Ltd., London, 1998. (abbr. SNG Spaer)
MacDonald, George:Catalogue of Greek Coins in the Hunterian Collection, University of Glasgow. Volume 3. Further Asia, Northern Africa, Western Europe. Elibron Classics, Adamant Media Corporation, 2003. Replica edition of the edition published by James Maclehose and Sons, Glasgow, 1905. (abbr. Hunterian Coll. III)
Newell, Edward T.:The Seleucid Mint of Antioch. Chicago, 1978 (Obol International reprint of the New York 1918 original edition). (abbr. SMA)
Pausanias:Description of Greece. Translated by W. H. S. Jones and H. A. Ormerod. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, 1918. (The Perseus Digital Library, http://www.perseus.org/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Paus.+toc)