The Other Coin: Ancient Coins of India

On the fringes of Alexander the Great's kingdom and the furthest reaches on Roman
trade routes lies India where Greek and roman coins are sometimes found. The
Bactrian kingdom gained independence with in a hundred years of Alexanders death,
creating a wonderful series of coins of rulers with Greek legends on the obverse and
Karosthi on the reverse with a mixture of Greek and Hindu and even Buddhist gods.
By the year 400BC Indians began to mint their own coins is bronze and silver of
various sizes with punch marks. Around the year 100BC the Bactrian and Parthian
kingdoms began to disintegrate into small kingdoms and many small Indian city states
minted their own coins. Scythian invaded from the north, so there are Indo-Scythian,
Indo-Parthian, and imitation Bactrian coins during the turn of the millennium until the
rise of the Kushan Empire from the 1st to 4th centuries. The Kushans came from
Western China, but adopted Zoroastrian and Hindu gods on their coinage. They in turn
were replaced by native Indian in the Gupta Empire that lasted from a little before
300AD to about 500AD. During these periods various smaller kingdoms and city
states minted their own coins and afterwards a plethora of entities minted coins
including various Muslim principalities after the 8th century AD. Islamic coins, of
course, mostly just have Islamic prayers and writing on them. Hindu coins continued
a plethora of animals, gods, and abstract designs. The smallest gold and silver coins
called fanams were minted in India from 4-8mm in size and even ancient ones can be
had for under $20. The European all minted colonial coins--France, Portugal, Holland,
Denmark, and England, including coins from the British East India Company, whose
monogram appeared on the flags in the recent Pirate of the Caribbean movie. Indian
coins have become accessible on e-bay, but also websites such as: and The standard
references are Michael Mitchiner's
Oriental Coins and Their values. The sizes, shapes,
designs and images can get pretty wild and it is still a buyers market for these ancient

Numismatically yours, David Elliott
Punch marked coin of Asoka
Bactrian coin
Gupta coin
Scythian coin
Kushan coin
French Colonial rooster