New To Byzantine Coins? The 4 Main Types You'll Encounter

Do you love ancient coins? No matter whether you're a coin collector, a history aficionado, or an artist, ancient coins can be a beautiful and treasured part of any collection. And Byzantine coins are some of the most beloved — and most prolific — numismatic finds.

If you want to add these fascinating coins to your life, though, you'll need to start by understanding a few unique historical terms to describe categories of Byzantine coins. To get you started, here are four of the most important to have under your belt. 

Follis. A follis was the small change of the Byzantine market. Think of this in the same way you would pennies, dimes, and nickels. Prior to the follis' circulation, many very small coins of little value (often minuscule compared to the solidus) were traded, but they were of poor quality and often weren't very recognizable as coinage. They remained important, however, as part of the myriad of small business transactions every day. 

Hyperpyron. Hyperpyron was a late stage invention but did eventually become popular as a potential replacement for the highly standardized solidus. A hyperpyron differs from other coins in that it was made from a hybridized metal known as electrum — a mixture of silver and gold. Since the gold content is lower in this combination, a hyperpyron was worth less than a solidus. 

Miliaresion. A later addition to Byzantine money, the miliaresion filled the middle grade need for a silver coin. Silver coins weren't as highly valued as gold, so one miliaresion was worth approximately 1/12 of a gold solidus. Laborers may have been paid in this smaller denomination.

Solidus. The Latin word 'solidus' refers to the primary coin in use for centuries throughout the Byzantine world. Also called 'nomisma' — and a basis for the modern term, 'numismatics' — this coin was initially worth approximately one pound of gold. Other coins were often valued in comparison to the solidus. A single follis, for instance, was worth 1/288 of a solidus. Wealthy Byzantines and governments measured their wealth in terms of solidi. 

As you become familiar with the various — and foreign — terms involved in the long history of Byzantine money, you can target your searches and focus your money on what interests you the most. Want to learn more about specific eras or types of ancient coins from this period? Start by meeting with a coin dealer and trader in your area today.