409 BCE Just before the Fall of Agrigento
2012 SOLD 2.3 MCHF before fees
About 2423 years ago (409 BCE), this coinage reached its artistic zenith with a beautiful silver decadrachm. The detail of the carving is superb, so much that experts are still wondering if this coin was actually intended to circulate. However, we must also consider that even at this distant time the officials were certainly wary of fakes.
We see on one side a quadriga in full motion. More original, the other side shows a remarkably realistic flying eagle carrying a rabbit.
An almost perfect example of this decadrachm was sold $ 570K by Sotheby's on June 19, 1990, an exceptional price for that time. It comes back at auction on October 17 by Numismatica Ars Classica in Zurich, with an estimate of CHF 1.75 M. The image of the quadriga side is shared by Artdaily. Here is the link to the catalog on the specialized online platform Sixbid.
This model is extremely rare for a good reason: as early as 406BC, Akragas was destroyed by the Carthaginians. I told very recently in this group that this terrible defeat, coupled with the installation of anarchy in Athens in 404BC, would pave the way for the highly effective tyranny of Dionysius in Syracuse.
POST SALE COMMENT
The pieces which are exceptional in their category have no price limit! This coin was sold CHF 2.3 million before fees.
405-400 BCE A Sicilian Tetradrachm
2014 SOLD for CHF 2.3M before fees by NAC
2019 SOLD for CHF 1.7M before fees
Syracuse is one of the main cities of the antique Greek world. The Greek process for silver coins is transferred in that city 2,500 years ago. The highest denomination is the decadrachm. The first tetradrachms of Syracuse are illustrated on the reverse by the head of the nymph Arethusa in profile and on the obverse by a quadriga with its driver and a winged victory that brings the wreath.
Around 415 BCE the image becomes dynamic. Horses that were previously static are now featured in full gallop and the victory crowns the man rather than the horses. At the same time the prestigious models are beginning to be signed, certainly to bring a guarantee on the purity of silver. These assayers of the old times are quite numerous but the best pieces are the work of Kimon or Evainetos.
Kimon's masterpiece is a tetradrachm in high relief made between 405 and 400 BCE. Each side is known from two variants of dies and three of these dies are signed. None of these dies have been paired for another use, which confirms that this edition was for prestige.
On both sides the clarity of the graphic style is excellent. This piece is one of the very rare Sicilian coins of that period to show an effigy in full front. The brutal action of the hammer weakens the reverse. Kimon transfers Arethusa to the obverse to improve the portrait. The perfection of this model will be admired by Goethe.
The finest known specimen of Kimon's tetradrachm, perfectly centered, was sold for CHF 2.3M before fees by NAC on May 26, 2014. It will be sold on November 18 in Geneva by NGSA (Numismatica Genevensis), lot 1 here linked on the Biddr auction platform.
350-300 BCE Pantikapaion Gold Stater
2023 SOLD for CHF 5.4M by NAC
Around 350-300 BCE this city-state was powerful. An independent dynasty coming from Thrace ruled it for nearly a century, and its gold coins are among the masterpieces of ancient coinage.
The stater with satyr has a very sharp high relief carving. On one side this mythical character is shaggy, bearded, with the nose of a drunkard and the ears of a horse. It is a beautiful and powerful ancient three quarter facing left portrait influenced from Kimon which is unique in the Pantikapaion staters. The satyr is possibly referring to a king Satyros of the local dynasty.
On the other side, a winged griffin is standing to left but turns his head toward us, holding a spear in its mouth. This mythical beast may be a guardian of the local gold reserves. A Greek letter is certainly the initial of the city.
An extremely fine specimen of this coin was sold for CHF 3.25M before fees on January 4, 2012 by Baldwin's, lot 213 illustrated in the post sale report shared by CoinWeek. It was sold for CHF 5.4M by Numismatica Ars Classica on May 18, 2023, lot 155 here linked to the Sixbid bidding platform. Please watch the video shared by Sixbid. It had belonged until 1934 to the collection of the Hermitage Museum. It weighs 9.12 g and its nearly circular cutout is well centered on a large flan.
Pantikapaion began to decline at the time of Alexander the Great, and its last great historical event, much later, was the suicide of Mithridates.
42 BCE BRUTUS Aureus
2020 SOLD for £ 3.25M by Roma Numismatics
sale cancelled in 2023
Caesar has himself appointed dictator perpetuo, arousing the horror among the republicans. Suspected of liberticide, he is assassinated less than two months later. His murder was committed in the Ides of March of a year that Livy will soon calculate as 709 Ab Urbe Condita later matching 44 BCE.
The group of conspirators was led by Brutus and Cassius, and the first blow is traditionally attributed to Casca Longus. This Casca Longus seems to have been a very close associate to Brutus. He belongs to the gens Servilius. Brutus had been adopted in his youth by an uncle who was also a Servilius.
In a first phase, the tyrannicides are approved by the Senate. Brutus and Cassius then accepted positions of proconsuls that temporarily separated them. On official mission in Macedonia and Thrace, Brutus issues coins bearing his effigy.
On October 8, 2015, Numismatica Ars Classica sold for CHF 900K before fees an aureus of Brutus, lot 23 illustrated in the post shared by Coin World. A better centered example was sold for CHF 850K before fees by the same auction house on November 18, 2013.
One side shows the head of Brutus from profile. The emaciated face carved in high relief is probably the only remaining realistic portrayal of Brutus in that period. This side is inscribed BRUTUS IMP. The coin has certainly been issued in 710AUC after a campaign by Brutus in Thrace which earned him the title of imperator.
The other side shows military symbols aside with the name of Casca Longus without an effigy. This does not mean that Brutus shared any supreme power with his accomplice but rather that Casca Longus was his moneyer, meaning the responsible for his coinage (and not the engraver). The name of Brutus himself had appeared as the moneyer on a Republican coin issued ten years earlier.
Caesar's likeness on an aureus had been felt as a provocation. The portrait of Brutus on a later aureus does not mean a betrayal of the republic but rather a tradition of Greece where he still was the Roman proconsul.
Octavian (who will later be Augustus) and Antony claim separately the succession of Caesar. They are reconciled in 43 BCE after a short war and obtain the condemnation in absentia of the tyrannicides. The civil war is then transferred against Brutus and Cassius who consider themselves the ultimate defenders of freedom.
At the beginning of 42, Brutus and Cassius want to return to Rome with their armies. They prepare their coins with the booty collected by Cassius in Asia Minor.
The Brutus coinage becomes revolutionary. The back claims the assassination of Caesar by the inscription EID MAR (for Eidibus Martiis) in large letters below symbolic figures : the cap of freedom between the daggers of the two tyrannicidal leaders. It is the only coin in Roman history that openly celebrates a murder. On the obverse the inscriptions around Brutus's head read BRVT (BRUT) and L PLAET CEST referring to the moneyer L. Plaetorius Cestianus. A new beard may represent a vow taken to defeat the heirs of Caesar and to restore the Republic.
EID MAR was struck from a mobile military mint from Asia Minor to Macedonia in gold and silver as aureus and denarius with the same dies. The aurei were not intended for circulation. They may have been distributed by Brutus to his commanders as both a reminder of what they were fighting for and as a means of cementing their loyalty.
These coins were recalled and melted down by Octavian and Antony after the defeats and death of Brutus and Cassius in October 42 and are very rare.
Three EID MAR aureus survive. The best of the three, very well centered and in near mint condition, was sold for £ 3.25M by Roma Numismatics on October 29, 2020, lot 463.
Investigators concluded in 2023 that the piece from the 2020 auction was illegally exported ca 2013 from Greece after its finding in a field where an army loyal to Brutus camped in 42 BCE and that the catalogue of the sale indicated a fraudulent provenance from a 19th century collection. The authenticity of the coin was not disputed. The sale was cancelled and the coin was returned to Greek officials in March 2023. The story is narrated by The New York Times.
A silver denarius with the EID MAR was sold by Heritage for $ 720K on May 3, 2023, lot 30051. It is graded XF 5/5 4/5 Fine Style by NGC. Another example was sold for $ 520K by Goldberg in June 2014.
2022 SOLD for CHF 2.2M before fees by NAC
It has been pierced at twelve o'clock, certainly by a supporter of Brutus for wearing it as pendant. It is poorly centered. Its condition is otherwise very fine.
The other coin is in the Deutsche Bundesbank collection.
135-136 Hadrian Brass Sestertius
2008 SOLD for CHF 2.3M by Numismatica Genevensis
The obverse features a profile portrait of the emperor and the reverse a standing figure of the Pax Augusti.
The portrait is attributed to the Alphaeus master supposed to be Antoninianos of Aphrodisias, a specialist in glyptic who had been approached by the emperor in 135-136 for preparing prestige coins for the official vicennalia feast of the reign. This master also designed coins celebrating Antinous, Hadrian's late arch-favorite.
From the reign of Antoninus Pius, the successor to Hadrian, the emperors will order to mint ceremonial coins for their decennalia, vicellania and tricellania.
194 Albinus Aureus
2021 SOLD for CHF 1M before fees by NAC
Clodius Albinus, head of the legions in Britannia (England), had been one of the pretenders before making alliance with Severus. When he ascended the throne in April 194 of our calendar, Severus chose Albinus as his Caesar with a right of succession.
At that time the Roman coins display superb portraits, highly detailed and artistic. Severus has realized an aureus at the effigy of Albinus, a beautiful general in his forties with a high forehead, curly hair and full beard.
The reverse of this aureus shows a standing god wearing a very slight pallium and carrying a trident and a caduceus. He is identified by the inscription Saeculo Frugifero which marks the auspices of a return to prosperity. The name is translated from the Greek god Aion Karkophoros who is the patron of Hadrumetum, the hometown of Albinus in present-day Tunisia.
This aureus was as ephemeral as the imperial career of Albinus. After a few months, Severus feels increasingly strong and changes his mind, desiring now to establish a hereditary dynasty. He abruptly evicts his former Caesar before he could disturb his ambitions. After two years of resistance, Albinus is defeated and commits suicide.
The aureus of Albinus is known in only three units. One of them is superbly struck, uncirculated, nearly fleur de coin. It was sold by Numismatica Ars Classica for CHF 600K before fees on May 23, 2016, lot 33 here linked on the bidding platform Sixbid, and for CHF 1M before fees on November 17, 2021, lot 324 here linked on the bidding platform Biddr.
281 Probus Medallion
2023 SOLD for CHF 2.4M before fees by NAC
In a time of continuous civil and frontier wars, Probus fought with success on almost every frontier of the empire. He was elected emperor by the troops in 276. On the Western front, he was able to defeat the German invaders in Gaul and to campaign against them in their homeland.
He coined a gold medallion in very high relief and fine details dated on the obverse to his fourth consulship matching 281 CE, when he celebrated a grand triumph in Rome as Probus Germanicus Maximus.
The obverse features the double laureate bust of the emperor and of Hercules. The cuirassed Probus wears the imperial mantle and holds an eagle tipped sceptre. Hercules wears the lion skin and holds a club. The reverse is a complex scene of five characters led by the winged Victory, Probus and the God Mars crossing the Rhine on a pontoon bridge over the river god lying in the waves.
The only surviving example, weighing 26.05 grams, is virtually as struck and nearly fleur de coin. It was sold for CHF 2.4M before fees from a lower estimate of CHF 800K by NAC on May 18, 2023, lot 802 here linked in the bidding platform Sixbid. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
The pairing of an emperor with Hercules as a companion was reused by Diocletian.
308 Maxentius Medallion
2011 SOLD for CHF 1.3M before fees by NAC
Maxentius was the last emperor to reside permanently in Rome of which he had endeavored to re-establish some of the ancient splendor. He had built or rebuilt the temple of Romulus, a basilica, a villa, a circus.
He had gold medallions minted ca 308 to commemorate his effort in the restoration of Rome including the temple of Urbis Veneris damaged in a fire in 307.
The medallion of 8 aurei displays on one side the bareheaded profile portrait of the young emperor turned to the right, and on the other side the encounter of the emperor in the robes of a senator with a seated allegory of Roma. They join their hands to hold an orb.
Two examples are known. The finest was sold for CHF 1.3M before fees from a lower estimate of CHF 850K by NAC on April 4-5, 2011, lot 1164. It weighs 42.76 g.
The obverse of the medallion of 4 aurei or quaternio has the same imperial head portrait but turned to the left. The reverse features Roma seated left on a shield decorated with the Lupa and twins on globe. Roma holds a miniature standing Victory on an orb in her right hand.
Two examples also survive. One of them, graded MS 5/5 by NGC in a strong strike on satiny surface, weighing 21.12 g with 33 mm in diameter, was sold by Heritage for $ 310K on March 25, 2021, lot 30065, and for the same price on November 2, 2022, lot 31063.
724 Umayyad Dinar
2019 SOLD for £ 3.7M by Morton and Eden
Taking advantage of the conquests, the caliphs exploit distant mines including Ifriqiya in Tunisia from 100 to 122 AH and al-Andalus. Around 100 AH the caliph Umar buys a mine in Hijaz, between Medina and Mecca, on a land bequeathed to the father of the previous owners by the Prophet himself.
The dies are made in Damascus. Some very rare prestige editions make a reference to the origin of the gold. Most of the coins were nevertheless striken in Damascus but the practice of traveling mints is not excluded because the necessary tools were not bulky.
The use of the Gold of the Commander of the Believers is indicated on a series of dinars in 91 and 92 AH. The dinar of 105 AH adds to this inscription a Hijaz origin. It is impossible to know if the gold of these two series comes from the same mine. The absence of coins of this origin between 92 and 105 could correlate such issues with pilgrimages to Mecca led by the Caliph himself.
In 105 AH corresponding to 724 CE, the caliph Yazid dies after a long illness. The presence in Arabia of his brother and successor Hisham is attested in that year. Although it is impossible to conclude which of the two caliphs commissioned the gold dinar, a prestigious operation of the new caliph co-ordinated with a pilgrimage to Mecca is likely.
By its inscription, this beautiful dinar from Hijaz weighing 4.27 g is the most valuable of the Islamic Umayyad coins. One of them in Extremely Fine condition was sold for £ 3.7M by Morton and Eden in 2011.
Another uncirculated example of the same dinar was sold for the same price, £ 3.7M, by Morton and Eden on October 24, 2019, lot 11 here linked on the NumisBids bidding platform.
Morton and Eden are delighted to announce the sale of the extremely rare Umayyad dinar Ma'din Amir al-Mu'minin bi'l-Hijaz 105h, sold today for £3.720.000 (with premium), matching the record we set in 2011 for a similar coin. pic.twitter.com/dkN2oBdES2— Morton & Eden Ltd (@MortonandEden) October 24, 2019
724 Umayyad Dinar
2011 SOLD for £ 3.7M by Morton and Eden
These coins are illustrated on both sides by an Arabic text, indicating in particular that they come from the mine of the Commander of the Faithful. They are dated 92 and 105 AH (711 and 724 of our calendar).
The latest coin certifies that it was made from a mine in Hejaz. Such a mine had been purchased a few years previously by one of the first Caliphs. The absence of coins of this origin between 92 and 105 could correlate such issues with pilgrimages to Mecca led by the Caliph himself.
Both are in very fine condition. They are estimated respectively at £ 250K and 300K.
POST SALE COMMENT
I had announced an event exceptional in its category. It was true.
The most prestigious of the two coins, dated 105AH (724AD), was sold £ 3.1 million before fees, 3.7 million including premium.
The photo of this exceptional dinar is shared by CoinWeek.
The other coin (92AH, 711AD) also far exceeded its estimate. It was sold £ 540K before fees, 648K including premium.