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Coin Detail
Click here to see enlarged image.
ID:     90010070
Type:     Greek
Region:     ELIS
City:     Olympia
Issuer:     97th Olympiad
Date Ruled:     392 BC
Metal:     Silver
Denomination:     Stater
Struck / Cast:     struck
Date Struck:     BC 392
Weight:     121.01 1 g
Obverse Description:     Eagle standing left, grasping coiled snake with his talons and tearing at its coils with his beak; all on round shield with raised rim
Reverse Legend:     F - A
Reverse Description:     Thunderbolt, with volutes above and flames below
Primary Reference:     Seltman, Temple 167 ff. var. (BW/??, but this die combination unknown to Seltman)
Reference2:     BCD Olympia -
Photograph Credit:     Classical Numismatic Group
Grade:     rev. U+0391U+039BU+0395U+039EU+0391U+039DU+0394U+03A1U+039FU+03A5 / U+03A4U+039FU+03A5 U+039DU+0395U+039FU+03A0U+03A4U+039FU+039BU+0395U+039CU+039FU+03A5 Thunderbolt
Notes:     Sale: Nomos 1, Lot: 70 Dewing 1438 From the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and John Ward, Sotheby & Co., Zurich, 4 April 1973, 380.Alexander the Molossian was yet another high-born general who came to the aid of the Greeks of Magna Graecia against their native enemies. His greatest legacy was numismatic: gold and silver staters bearing a head of Zeus and a thunderbolt, which were struck on his behalf to pay his troops. They are generally thought to have been minted in Tarentum, and are certainly only found in southern Italy, but HN III ignores them and they tend to be classified under Epirus alone (though they seem not to have circulated there). This piece is one of the finest known examples. The exceptionally rare gold coinage of the Akarnanian League is only known from a very few specimens, all from a very limited number of issues struck over a very short time. These must have been produced for military needs and must be contemporary with the equally rare silver of Corinthian type, like the one in the following lot. This coin is particularly interesting and belongs to a very small and very rare group of Corinthian-type staters that are issues of the Akarnanian Confederacy. Their symbol is federal in nature and almost certainly has to be related to the rare Akarnanian gold issues, as the one above; as already noted, it is most likely that they were produced for military needs. The staters of Lokroi are divided into two basic groups by the way their reverse legends are treated;: those with a break like this one are earlier. Both Persephone and Ajax are masterfully portrayed. Opous was the main city of eastern Lokris, which was located to the north of Boeotia stretching to the coast opposite Euboea; it was separated by Phokis and Doris from western Lokris, which was on the northern coast of the Gulf of Corinth. Colonists from both parts of Lokris founded Lokris in Bruttium. The lovely head of Persephone on the obverse of this coin was, of course, directly inspired by the Syracusan Arethusa heads of Euainetos. The head also is quite similar to those found on some Peloponnesian coinages of the same period (Pheneos and Olympia for example). As for the reverse, which shows the hero Ajax son of Oileus, commander of the Lokrians in the Trojan War, it is not only similar to the Syracusan issue with Leukaspis, but also to the famous stater of Perikle of Lycia. The shield he carries is also remarkable for having its decoration on the inside - though there are sculptural parallels. Why the somewhat obscure town of Opous in Lokris should have produced such a lovely and extensive coinage is uncertain: military expenses seem the most likely reason. Another possibility is that Lokrian mercenaries employed in Sicily could have returned with their salary in Syracusan coins, thus providing the bullion and the models for the coinage of their home city. From the Spina collection.. From the BCD collection, Triton IX 10 January 2006, 331. From the collection of C. Gillet, ‘Kunstfreund’, Bank Leu/MÜnzen und Medaillen, 28 May 1974, 198.Dionysos and Herakles were the patron gods of Thebes and this extremely rare coin bears them both. Thebes was the only city in Boeotia to issue coins in electrum: hemidrachms and trihemiobols, both of the same type (the smaller piece is so rare that only a single example has every appeared at public sale). From the Spina collection and from the BCD collection, Lanz 111, 25 November 2002, 235 (illustrated on the front cover).This is unquestionably one of the great rarities of the Hellenistic coinage of Greece, and one of the most beautiful as well. Precisely why the city should have produced three issues of tetradrachms circa 170 is unclear, but since they are stylistically very close their striking could not have lasted very long and all probably relate to a single event. While the BCD cataloguer suggested that this coin was struck circa 180 that seems somewhat early, and it may be better to see these issues as having been struck to help the Romans in the late 170s, in the run up to the war against Perseus of Macedon. The silver issues of Aegina were immense: it was one of the chief trading coinages of the 6th and earlier 5th centuries, especially in the Peloponnesos, the Islands and in Central Greece where its weight standard was dominant. Exactly why turtles or tortoises appear on the coinage of Aegina is not clear: it was not a sacred animal. One suggestion is that early, pre-coinage silver ingots in use in the Aegean area were plano-convex in shape; and that on Aegina they were colloquially known as ‘turtles.’ Thus, when coins were introduced, using the turtle as a coin type was a reference to the older, pure-silver ingots that had previously been used in trade. From the BCD collection.This is a particularly rare variety - it seems to be transitional in nature and ought to be placed in the late 5th century. The lack of a wreath around the dove probably should be explained by the smallness of the flan: putting one in would have made the design too busy. The lion is beautifully made: he is walking very warily to the left, as if approaching an enemy, quite unlike the proudly striding chimaeras on later issues. This lovely coin comes from an issue of staters produced at Sikyon after Alexander’s appeal for mercenaries in 334: they seemed to have been paid out as a signing bonus and then buried for safe-keeping. Unfortunately, many of these mercenaries never came back; thus, a number of coins from this issue have been found in excellent condition since they never circulated! The chimaera on this coin is a lot less dangerous looking than the tiny lion on the preceding coin: this animal is walking proudly to the left in an almost heraldic way. From the BCD collection.The triobols of Sikyon were one of the main fractional silver coinages of the Peloponnesos during the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. They circulated widely and since they could equally be thought of as Attic tetrobols their exchange was easy. Their great popularity meant that they were heavily used - the vast majority of surviving specimens are less than very fine in condition; those in extremely fine, as this one, can be considered rare. The engraver Da... (Daidalos?) was the first artist who signed the dies he engraved at Olympia. He seems to have been active from the late 420s down to the end of the century and he was responsible for what is possibly the finest eagle head ever to appear on a Greek coin (if not on any coin). The eagle was the bird of Zeus, and the creature on this coin shows the nobility of the god himself. It has what seems to be an all-seeing eye and what can only be termed an expression of great power. The coinage of Olympia is rather notorious for the often poor striking and poor preservation of most surviving coins: this piece is a wonderful exception to that rule. The oddly incuse partial legend on the reverse was caused by the need to recut the letter because of die wear. The way the obverse is made indicates that it is copying a shield blazon - presumably that used by soldiers protecting the sanctuary. Similar shield blazons are found on coins of various Lykian dynasts; they are also paralleled by the representations of shields on Greek painted pottery.