Animal Symbolism in Ancient Coins

Artistic depictions of animals have been used as representative symbols and icons on various items for centuries. Since the very beginning of coinage, empires and countries have utilized significant animals based on their different meanings and how they ultimately relate to the country’s beliefs, morals, and views.

The Lion

Close up of the front and back of a Roma Minerva Eagle coin

One of the first animals that consistently appears on historic coinage is a golden lion. Lydia, an ancient kingdom that once presided in western Asia, is believed to have been the first empire to have coins minted around 610-600 B.C. but also the first to have used a depiction of a lion.

Originally, the coin only depicted the lion’s head, but then the kingdom included the full body of the lion. Throughout history, the lion has been a symbol of pride and regality; it also symbolizes unending courage and strength. These are both attractive attributes to have in a country and its people.

The Dog

The dog is another well-known animal used for its symbolism and meaning throughout history. Since ancient times, dogs have been seen as representatives of guardianship and protection. The Roman Republic was one of the earliest civilizations that used a dog as the main feature of their coins (c. 235 B.C.). The dog was also an important symbol to the ancient city of Segesta, and was featured on two known coins, the Silver Didrachm (c. 461-415 B.C.) and the Triantes of Segesta (c. 410-400 B.C.).

The Eagle

Unsurprisingly, the animal most commonly depicted on coins during ancient times through today is the eagle. Romans used the eagle on their coinage for many years, and the city of Antioch featured many varieties of the eagle on their currency from the Greco-Roman civilization. In current times, the eagle is used as the symbol for freedom in the United States and is featured on many coins.

Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers has an assortment of animal-depicted coins, including the American Buffalo, Chinese Panda, and the Australian Kangaroo; just to name a few. Call 404-236-9744 to learn more about our inventory and how you can continue growing your coin collection today!

Image courtesy of CNG of Wikimedia Commons.

Tony Davis is the owner of Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers, a full service Atlanta based coin and bullion dealer specializing in buying, selling and appraising coins and coin collections of all types and sizes. Tony frequently writes on various economic and numismatic related topics affecting the coin and bullion markets and has been published on some of the industry’s leading websites, including Coin Week, the American Numismatic Association, Coin Collector, Coinflation and Coin Auctions Help, just to name a few. Visit Atlanta Gold & Coin’s website at to obtain additional information on the products, services and educational resources offered by his company. Tony can be reached at or at 404-236-9744. Be sure to "like" Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers on Facebook , follow them on Twitter, or subscribe to their RSS feed to receive the latest news, tips and expert advice on old, rare, collectible and bullion coins.