Numismatica Ars Classica NAC AG, CH-Zurich

17. October 2012

Auction 66 and 67

2.3 million SFR for the Acragas decadrachm - new record for a Greek silver coin

Prestigious auction house Numismatica Ars Classica NAC AG held two of its most successful sales to date on October 17, 2012 with its auctions of ancient coins from the celebrated Hunt and Huntington collections.

6: Akragas, decadrachm. Estimate: CHF 1.7 million. Realized: CHF 2.3 million.

6: Akragas, decadrachm. Estimate: CHF 1.7 million. Realized: CHF 2.3 million.

Only 6 lots in Auction 66 (the first of the two sales) had already broken a record for the highest price paid for a Greek silver coin at auction. The sublime Acragas decadrachm, known in only 10 specimens and described by the auction house as “arguably the most prestigious and important coin in existence” was sold for 2.3 million Swiss Francs against a pre-sale estimate of CHF 1.75 million.

The auction continued to fetch dazzling prices with many lots doubling and in some cases tripling their estimates. The bidding was frantic and the prices were driven high at an unforeseen rate.

27: Philipp II, tetradrachm. Estimate: CHF 15,000. Realized: CHF 50,000.

27: Philipp II, tetradrachm. Estimate: CHF 15,000. Realized: CHF 50,000.

Lot 27, a tetradrachm of Philip II, went for CHF 50,000 against its estimate of CHF 15,000 fetching the highest price ever paid for a coin of this type. Later, a gold stater of Ptolemy I was sold for CHF 190,000 far surpassing its estimate of CHF 100,000. This was shortly followed by an octodrachm of Ptolemy II estimated at CHF 25,000 which went on to fetch CHF 130,000.
The total hammer price of the 84 lots offered in the Greek coin auction amounted to CHF 4,831,950, a good 1.7 million above the pre-sale estimate.

The feverish bidding certainly did not relent with the opening of the second sale of the afternoon, auction 67, The Archer M. Huntington collection of Roman Gold Coins Part I. This auction went on to realize over CHF 6 million in total, equating to almost double the pre-sale estimate.
One of the very first lots, an aureus bearing the portraits of Julius Caesar and Octavian (better-known as Augustus, Rome’s first emperor) doubled its estimate fetching a cool CHF 180,000.

105: Aureus, Sextus Pompey. Estimate: CHF 100,000. Realized: CHF 240,000.

105: Aureus, Sextus Pompey. Estimate: CHF 100,000. Realized: CHF 240,000.

Two lots later, an aureus of Sextus Pompey was adjudicated for CHF 240,000 against a CHF 100,000 estimate. As the bidders in the room grappled with telephone and internet bidders to win lots, the momentum showed no sign of waning.

127: Aureus, Galba. Estimate: CHF 100,000. Realized: CHF 280,000.

127: Aureus, Galba. Estimate: CHF 100,000. Realized: CHF 280,000.

Lot 127, an extremely rare aureus of Galba, also estimated at 100,000 set a precedent for the succession of civil war aurei to follow with the hammer coming down at CHF 280,000, then CHF 240,000, then CHF 260,000. Fierce contention propelled the bids that followed with lots such as the aurei of Macrinus, Septimius Severus, Caracalla and Maximianus Herculius reaching sky-high prices.
Despite the uncertain economic climate, not a single lot went unsold. Numismatica Ars Classica attributed the strong competition for the coins to quality and the desirability of coins with such glittering pedigrees as the fabled Nelson Bunker Hunt and Archer M. Huntington collections, the latter having been in a public institution until very recently.
Arturo Russo, Director of Numismatica Ars Classica remarked: “Collectors were aware that this was an unmissable opportunity to purchase coins from two of the most prestigious numismatic collections ever assembled. We were able to trace back many of the Huntington coins to the most important numismatic collections of the late 1800s which only made them more attractive to buyers. It was a great honour and delight to auction these coins, the Akragas decadrachm in particular, and we look forward to offering the second part of the Huntington gold coins next year”.

You can find all prices realized at these auctions on the NAC website.

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