Centuries ago coins were found in Israel which were engraved with the name "Shimon". Numismatists at the time and in fact until early this past century assumed that these coins were minted by Simon the Hasmonean. Aside for the obvious inscription their claims were bolstered by the ancient historian Josephus, who records that Antiochus VII gave Shimon the privilege to mint coins in Judaea.
In the last few decades it was proven that attribution to Shimon the Maccabee is impossible and that the coins were properly attributed to Shimon Bar Kochba (see Roman Period.)
The earliest coins minted by the Hasmoneans were by Yochanan Hyrcanus the son of Shimon (ruled 135 - 104 B.C.E.) Yochanan minted a variety of types. All are rare or scarce except for the regular large prutah denomination. This is the classical coin of the Chashmonaim with its basic design replicated by all future Hasmonean Kings (the only real variation was executed by Mattathias Antigonus.)
The coin features a double cornucopia on the obverse which was a symbol of agricultural prosperity, and an inscription in paleo hebrew on the reverse. (Paleo hebrew is called K'tav Ivrit and was the alphabet used in Israel before the adoption of Ktav Ashurit, the writing form we use today.) In paleo hebrew was written, "Yehochanan Kohen Gadol V'Chaver HaYehudim". There are two rarer variants of this coin, one with an "A" over the paleo hebrew inscription and one with the additon of the word "Rosh" before the words "Chaver HaYehudim". We are not sure what the "A" symbolizes. It may be the first initial of Antiochus VII whose permission Yochanan may have sought at the onset of this minting. The coins struck by later Hasmonean Kings did not share these variants.
After Yochanan coins were minted by:
• Yehuda Aristobulus (ruled 104 - 103 B.C.E.) Yehuda only struck the same coin type as his father, with the substitution of the name "Yehuda". Due to his short reign, his coin is much rarer than that of Yochanan. Yehuda was the first Hasmonean ruler to take the
title of "King" and was a Saducee.
• Yannai HaMelech (ruled 103 - 76 B.C.E.) Yannai also continued the same type as above, with the substitution of the name to "Yehonatan". In additon he struck several types of coins some which are very rare and some which are even more common than the standard large prutah type. The most common of his coins was a small prutah type,
bearing an anchor on the obverse and a star on the reverse. Sometimes these small coins are also accompanied by a Greek inscription around the star. However these coins were struck extremely sloppily and crudely. If you examine 1,000 of these coins, probably at least 990 would be off center, and most likely none would show all the devices, including the inscription. Yehonatan like his brother Yehuda was a Saducee and he even added Greek inscriptions to his coins.
A number of Yannai prutot have also been found made out of lead. It is not known whether those coins had a specific purpose or were meant for general circulation.
• Salome Alexandra/Hyrcanus II (Salome ruled 73 - 67 B.C.E. and Hyrcanus II ruled 67 B.C.E. and 63 - 40 B.C.E.) In my opinion the coins attributed to Hyrcanus were not struck after the earliest segment of his rule and were probably struck while he was Kohen Gadol during the reign of Salome Alexandra.
• Mattiyahu Antigonus (ruled 40 - 37 B.C.E.) The coins of Mattityahu for the most part are different than those of the earlier Hasmoneans. One noticeable difference is the flan itself. The Mattityahu coins are struck on flans of double thickness and appear as two flans stuck together.
More to come soon!