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On some rare ancient coins of Matityah Antigonus, there are depictions of what seem to be the Menorah and the Shulchan (one obverse die even seems to show the Lechem HaPanim). This coin has an inscription in Greek and [sometimes] Hebrew (מתתיה כהן גדול).

See: http://menorahcoinproject.org/atge.htm

Also, Bar-Kochba minted several Sela'im that have the Kadosh HaKadoshim on the obverse:

Bar-Kochba Sela

(The above coin has the obverse inscrption of "שמעון" and reverse legend of "ש[נת] ב לח[רת] ישראל" around a lulav and etrog)

How were Antigonus and Bar-Kochba able to mint coins with these images on them?
It says in Avodah Zarah 43a:

A man may not make a . . . menorah like the design of the Menorah. He may, however, make one with five, six or eight [branches], but with seven he may not make it even though it might be of other metals. Rebi Yosi bar Yehudah says, "Also of wood he may not make it because that is how the Chashmonaim made it." They said to him, "Is that a proof? It consisted of metal staves overlaid with tin. When they became richer they made one of silver, and when they became even richer they made one of gold!

Does this not forbid creating images and designs of menorot?

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Argon, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for the interesting question! I look forward to seeing you around. –  Isaac Moses Jul 2 '12 at 18:41
    
@IsaacMoses Thank you, sir! I just extended my account to here from Math.SE. –  Argon Jul 2 '12 at 19:23
    
I can now see where the hanukkah menorah is coming from , thatnks –  user1732 Jul 23 '12 at 11:29
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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Rashi on that g'mara clearly says (about the first prohibition) that it means making a life-size model, which would mean pictures on coins are okay. Likewise, it's codified in the Rambam as "one may not make a house of the form of the hechal, a porch of the form of the ulam,… a candelabrum of the form of the m'nora", etc., and Shulchan Aruch writes much the same (if anything, more clearly): depictions would seem to be fine.

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