Electrum is known since the earliest Egyptian dynasties. This natural alloy of gold and silver is harder than pure gold. It was abundant in Ionia at that time when metal separation techniques were not yet developed. The first electrum coins precede by more than a century the wealth of Croesus based on the electrum of the Paktolos river.
The standard is the stater whose weight varies according to the metal. The divisions were practiced from the beginning, with a great accuracy. The most popular for the electrum coin was the trite worth one-third of a stater. The electrum stater weighing around 14 g was rarer. The first use of such coins was probably a votive tax.
Ephesus is one of the earliest users of a coinage. Archaic coins date from the period of an ancient Temple of Artemis destroyed by water, fire or war during the 7th century BCE, nearly a century before the construction of the famous temple which was listed as one of the seven wonders of the world.
An oval shaped electrum stater issued around 625-600 BCE displays a tall stag walking head down for grazing. This animal is along with the bee one of the main ancient symbols of the goddess Artemis. Comparisons of style and of punches ensure that it was made in Ephesus or for the use of Ephesus.
This stater is the earliest known coin model in history bearing an inscription. In a paleo-Greek script throughout the length above the stag, it is in inverted writing : the primitive engraver had not been able to overcome the fact that the image of the coin is necessarily inverted from that of the mold.
It is inscribed ΦΑΝΟΣ EMI ΣEIMA. meaning "I am the badge of Phanes". This name has not been decoded : it can be that of the donor, the engraver, the assayer or the nickname of a deity. Linguists must consider that there is a trite from the same series, with the animal in the same attitude, where the inscription reduced to only the name is not ΦΑΝΟΣ but ΦΑNEΟΣ.
Two staters of Phanes are kept in public collections. Three others were auctioned : for CHF 480K by Tkalec in February 2000, for € 345K including premium by Gorny und Mosch on March 8, 2010, for € 280K before fees by Numismatik Lanz on June 5, 2014. Another unit graded very fine by NGC is estimated $ 200K for sale by Heritage in New York on January 8, lot 32049.
SOLD for $ 120K including premium