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Identifying Look-alike Parthian Drachms

There are many Parthian drachms on which the obverse bears a highly stylized bust facing to the left, wearing a diadem with pendant ties. The reverse design, with few exceptions, is an archer seated right surrounded by the same vestigial Greek legend, not readable without prior knowledge of the text. These later drachms were minted beginning early in the first century A.D., and Fred Shore suggests the appearance of these coins coincided with the Parthian court's break from Hellenistic traditions.1 David Sellwood also notes this major change in Parthian coinage following the dethronement of Vonones II (c. A.D. 8 - 12).2

Despite the many similarities of these coins, identification can be made by first separating them by beard style of the obverse portrait, then selecting a distinctive portrait or legend feature. This page will link you to more specific information to quickly catalog your coin. Begin identification by clicking on the sample photo below that most closely describes your coin:

Note that drachms with realistic portraits and legible Greek -- those of Vonones II (type 60) and before -- are not included.

No Beard/Light Beard
No beard Light beard
PDC 573 PDC 6732



Pointed Beard
No earring With earring
PDC 6717 PDC 6737



Square Beard
Five waves in hair Straight hair with earring Straight hair, no earring
PDC 6724 PDC 420 PDC 24834



Rounded Beard
Five pendants Three pendants
PDC 72 PDC 2381


1. Shore, Fred B. Parthian Coins & History (Quarryville, PA: CNG, 1993), p. 141
2. Sellwood, D. "A Die-Engraver Sequence for Later Parthian Drachms", Num. Chron. 7/7 (1967), pp. 14-15.

This page last updated 23 Feb 2021

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