Maison Palombo, CH-Geneva

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19-10-2018 – 01-01-1970

17th Numismatic Auction

Record price for a Roman Republican Coin

On Saturday 20 October 2018, Stéphane Palombo held his 17th numismatic auction in Geneva. It was a large generalist sale, with 714 lots that were estimated CHF 10,659,902 and sold for a total of CHF 10,399,190 (plus the 20% buyer’s premium). It contained an unusually good selection of high value ancient coins, including several from the well known A.A. collection, some of which were illustrated in Andreas Pangerl’s superb book: PORTRAITS. 500 Years of Roman Coin Portraits, 2nd ed., Munich 2017.

Considering the importance of these Greek and Roman coins, Palombo had asked the assistance of Hadrien Rambach to assist in writing historical commentaries. Rambach has recently been discovered by many collectors through his role in researching the George La Borde collection of Roman aurei (sold by Numismatica Ars Classica in three auctions 2016-2018), but he has long been advising several high-level private collectors – as well as occasionally buying on behalf of international museums.

Lot 25. Chalcis. Gold stater, 196 BC, struck in the name of T. Quinctius Flaminius. Starting price: 500,000 CHF. Result: 600,000 CHF.

Most probably, the most significant amongst these important coins was the gold stater struck c. 196 BC in the name of T. Quinctius Flamininus. These exceedingly rare coins are well known, and the dream of many collectors, as they present the first portrait of a Roman on a coin. Rambach had based his lengthy commentary on an extensive bibliography, containing some nineteen titles, and was able to update the reference work by A. Campana with an eleventh, so far unpublished, example.
Of the eleven examples known, four are held in museums (Athens, Berlin, London, Paris) and will not come back on the market. The coin that has just sold is in exceptional condition, comparable to only one other in the series (other specimens are very worn). It is also distinguished by its publication history, having appeared in seven books and articles, beginning with a publication in 1983 on the collection of the Hunt brothers. (The other well preserved example has no known pedigree before 2001.) Coin provenances have become highly important to most buyers, such as the Swiss resident who underbid the Flamininus through Rambach as he regularly loans coins to museums.
Until now, the record-price for a Roman Republican coin was USD 475,000 for an aureus of A. Manlius A.f. sold in 2017 in the auction Triton XX, whilst for a Roman Imperatorial coin it is USD 932,018 for an aureus of Brutus sold in 2013 in the auction NAC 73. Unsurprisingly, the Flamininus was sold for a record price for a Roman Republican (not Imperatorial) coin: the bidding opened at CHF 500,000 (US$ 505,000) but an English-speaking buyer on the phone had to pay CHF 600,000 (plus premium) to acquire it. Until now, the highest prices paid for such coins at auction were CHF 460,000 in 2006 at Numismatica Genevensis SA, and CHF 500,000 in 2008 – also at NGSA – for the specimen reoffered by Palombo. Rambach commented that, however high this price might seem, it was not really so, considering that this was undoubtedly the most desirable example of this type, and that the US$ 400,000 which Nelson Bunker Hunt reputedly paid for it nearly forty years ago was then equivalent to over 1000 ounces of fine gold (worth today around US$ 1,300,000). It obviously brings to memory the famous quotation by art dealer Joseph Duveen: “When you pay high for the priceless, you’re getting it cheap”.

You can find the complete auction catalogue at Sixbid.