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Genuine Widow’s Mites

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44 NIV

The coin referred to in this passage is today knows as the "widow's mite". It was the smallest denomination bronze coin of the time and was minted by Alexander Jannaeus beginning in the year 103 BC. These coins were of very low value and were used only in the poor province of Judaea. At the time of Jesus it took 48 leptons just to buy a loaf of bread and the standardized value was equal to 1/384 of a Greek silver drachm. They were mass-produced by casting flans in strips and then carelessly striking the crude flans with even cruder dies. Little attention was paid to their quality and most are far off center and or flatly struck.

Most of these coins have been found in and around modern day Israel and each coin is unique and some still have dirt from the Holy land adhering to the surfaces. The obverse features a star of eight rays and the reverse an anchor. Greek legends will also be visible on better examples. The attribution for these is coin 1153 in David Hendin's standard volume on Biblical coins, 5th revised edition.

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