I don't know what technology the Greeks had. Did they make
steel? Have bronze metal working tools been recovered?
Bronze yes. Steel, no. Not till the romans.
Looking at the coins pictured I would go about working in the
positive rather than the female part of the die. I would carve in
wax , to be cast in bronze, a male or positive punch and use it to
stamp into what would become the actual coin making die. That would
be the quickest and easiest way to produce. Carving into metal,
engraving, at the depths these coins are stamped would be very time
consuming and much more difficult than making a punch to make the
die to make the coin.
Sam, I think I'll disagree with you here. From the greek coins I've
looked at, the designs seem to me to be more likely cut directly into
the female die, which I expect was either bronze, or perhaps (and
here I dont' know) maybe stone. Also, looking at the way many of the
coins have cracked edges, I'd guess these are struck coins, not just
cast. The dies might have been cast, but i'd bet the work hardening
obtainable by forging would have suggested forged bronze, then
engraved in much the same manner in which the fine examples of greek
intaglio gem carvings were done, or perhaps made with chasing tools,
or stone chisels, or something (remember, no steel chisels, or files,
yet). I'd expect too, that the planchets would be carefully weighed
amounts of metal, melted into buttons and hammered somewhat to shape
before being struck between the dies for the designs. Since often
the designs are not quite centered on the coins, this too suggests
die striking rather than casting, either into the bronze (or stone)
dies, or via lost wax.
While modern coinage dies are indeed made by carving, engraving, or
otherwise producing a male hub, (actually, modern dies start with a
large clay, wax, plaster, or other such model, usually about a foot
in diameter, which is then pantograph reduced by machine to produce
the male die) from which the female coining dies are then produced,
actually engraving a female die directly isn't as time consuming as
you might expect. I've done small dies that way, though not for
coins, over the years, and you can get surprising depth without too
much trouble. And I was doing it in steel, not softer bronze. But
of course I did have access to modern tools to do it.
But we really aught to ask Jack Ogden, who I believe reads Orchid,
to comment on this. he's the expert on ancient technologies, or so
his wonderful books on the subject have led me to believe...