Nomos AG, CH-Zurich

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21-10-2013 – 01-01-1970

Auction 8

Ancient coins at Nomos

Once again Nomos has an attractive selection of coins, ranging from some of the earliest electrum pieces struck in Asia Minor to gold of the Middle Byzantine period. Not only are there many Greek and Roman rarities, including some that are unique, one of the highlights of this sale is a small collection of pedigreed pieces bought primarily from the late 1960s through the mid 1990s. The collector was interested in beauty and, working with the late Frank Sternberg, managed to acquire a number of quite lovely pieces from the great sales of the past: the wonderful Eukleidas tetradrachm from Kunstfreund and Hunt is only one of them (52). There are coins in this sale of all sizes, from chalkoi and hemiobols to oktadrachms and dekadrachms, and in all metals; and with estimates from 150 to 100,000 Swiss Francs.
As usual there are a number of surprises in this sale: unusual rarities like the best and most complete known ‘wolf’ obol of Perrhaiboi, or two exceptional denarii of the third century, one certainly unique; but anyone looking through this catalogue will find others!


LUCANIA, Metapontum. Circa 430-400 BC. Didrachm or Nomos. Rare. A lovely, toned piece of very fine style. Extremely fine. From the B. in B. Collection, ex Bank Leu 22, 8 May 1979, 4. Estimate: 2,750 CHF.

This coin forms part of a very unusual issue: not only is the appearance of Apollo Karneios a surprise, but a goodly number of the known examples are actually ancient forgeries (i.e, Noe 334, 338 ff. – most are very much underweight, usually plated, and are of distinctly poor style). In some ways this implies that these coins were issued for a special reason; given that Karneios was closely connected with Lakedaimon, could it be that a small issue was produced to honor an ephemeral relationship between Metapontum and Sparta? In any case, this is one of the nicest genuine examples of the type known.

LUCANIA, Metapontum. Circa 400-340 BC. Didrachm or Nomos. Rare. A coin of splendid style, very well centered and struck on a broad flan. Nicely toned. Extremely fine. From the B. in B. Collection, ex Bank Leu 33, 3 May 1983, 202. Estimate: 10,000 CHF.

The head of the young Dionysos here is of great elegance and freshness, lacking any sign of the drunkenness that so often accompanies the god: without the diadem that so clearly identifies him he might well be Apollo. This piece is one of the finest examples of this type known.

SICILY, Syracuse. Last decade of the 5th century BC. Tetradrachm. Very rare. An important and innovative coin with one of the most successful facing heads in all of Greek coinage. Toned and attractive. Obverse a little off center and with some slight remains of corrosion, otherwise, very fine/extremely fine. From the B. in B. Collection, ex Sotheby’s, 8 July 1996, 23 and from the collections of N. B. Hunt I, Sotheby’s 19 June 1990, 81, S. Weintraub and C. Gillet, Bank Leu/Münzen und Medaillen, “Kunstfreund”, 28 May 1974, 120. Estimate: 75,000 CHF.

One of the great coins of the late 5th century BC, this is a prime example of the kind of spectacular workmanship that the Sicilian cities used to enable their coins to advertise their wealth and power. It has been suggested that the head on this coin is not that of Athena, but of Arethusa wearing Athena’s helmet, in celebration of the Syracusan triumph over the Athenians. However, would Arethusa not only be wearing Athena’s helmet but her necklace as well? This seems really unlikely. In fact, Athena was honored at Syracuse: a sanctuary was erected to her on the Ortygia to commemorate the Syracusan triumph over the Carthaginians in 480 BC. At around the time this coin was issued Sicily was facing yet another Carthaginian invasion – which resulted in the destruction of Akragas – so a coinage honoring Athena would be quite appropriate. As for the date of this coin, it is surely late 5th century, but whether it was struck during the last years of the Democracy, or shortly after Dionysos I (405-367 BC) seized power is uncertain.

SICILY, Uncertain Punic military mint, “People of the camp”. Circa 320-310. Tetradrachm. Extremely rare, one of six known examples. A magnificent, fresh and superb piece. Some minor corrosion and marks but, otherwise, virtually as struck. From the ‘Exceptional Private Collection,’ Leu 76, 27 October 1999, 68, and from the collection of N. B. Hunt, I, Sotheby’s New York, 19 June 1990, 96 (= Wealth of the Ancient World 96). Estimate: 100,000.

This is probably the most beautiful of all Carthaginian silver coins and must have been designed and engraved by a Greek artist. In the past this head was identified as that of Dido, the legendary queen of Carthage but it seems more like to be the city’s patron goddess Tanit as viewed by a Greek artist. She seems to be shown with hair in curls that mark her as being ‘foreign’, not at all like the female heads that are shown on other Siculo-Punic issues. Her headdress is also very unusual, as is the palmette-ornamented ribbon that encircles it. It is more than likely that this splendid Tanit head was thought to be simply too exotic for general use and, thus, was replaced by the more standard, and more familiar, Tanit heads based on Euainetos’ conception of Arethusa.

CIMMERIAN BOSPOROS, Pantikapaion. Circa 350-340 BC. Stater. An extremely rare type, perhaps only the second example known. With scratches in the obverse field and probable traces of mounting, otherwise, extremely fine. From a collection formed during the 1930s. Estimate: 25,000 CHF.

The only other known example of a Pantikapaion stater struck from this pair of dies appeared in Leu 81 as lot 124. That coin, part of the collection of R. Abecassis, had been acquired from Spink’s in the very late 1960s and was reliably said to be from the Empedocles collection (many Empedocles coins were bought by Cahn in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and then sold further). The satyr head on the obverse is particularly powerful and has very wild hair, rather similar to that found on the earliest staters of Pantikapaion, as Gulbenkian 581 and Prinkipo 166. A marginally more mannered head, though probably by the same engraver, can be seen on Gulbenkian 586 and KF 188.

CIMMERIAN BOSPOROS, Pantikapaion. Circa 340-325 BC. Stater. A superb piece, beautifully struck on a broad flan. A few very minor marks, otherwise, good extremely fine. Ex Triton XIII, 5 January 2010, 168. Estimate: 50,000 CHF.

The coinage of Pantikapaion, the wealthy trading and agricultural city on the Crimea, is famous for its gold issues. They bear the head of a satyr, the city’s badge, combined with a griffin, the mythical guardian of the gold that was found far to the east. This is a superb example.

THESSALY, Perrhaiboi. Circa 462/1-460 BC. Obol. Extremely rare, the best and most complete known example. Extremely fine. From a European collection, formed before 2005. Estimate: 3,000 CHF.

This is quite an extraordinary coin! The types have been known since the Photiades Pasha sale in 1890, but both previously published examples were insufficiently preserved to allow the obverse monogram to be read correctly. In any event, what the obverse monogram signifies is a mystery: magistrates’ names or monograms very rarely appeared on Thessalian coins this early, and being in such a prominent position on the coin would be exceptional. The possibility that it refers to a political grouping or a prominent leader is certainly conceivable. One suggestion is that it refers to the Macedonians who were on Perrhaiboia’s northern border, and implies that there was some form of alliance between the two states.

THESSALY, Phalanna. Circa 360-340 BC. Drachm. Very rare. An astonishing coin, sharp, nicely centered and of splendid style. Reverse very slightly double-struck and with an insignificant flan fault, otherwise, good extremely fine. From an American Collection, ex Nomos 2, 18 May 2010, 65. Estimate: 5,000 CHF.

This is one of the finest known examples of the type and is better than any of the pieces from the BCD collection. As for the identification of the male head as the hero Peloros, it has also been suggested that he could be Apollo or Ares, though the lack of any wreath or taenia makes that unlikely. The similarity between this head and that of Apollo on the gold staters of Philip suggests that the issues of Phalanna were influenced by them.

ATTICA, Athens. Circa 390-380 BC. Tetradrachm. A rare variety. Beautifully toned, nicely centered and well struck on an unusually regular flan. Nearly extremely fine. From a Swiss collection, ex Hess-Leu 36, 17 April 1968, 209 and J. Hirsch XXXIV, 5 May 1914, 345 (”Prachtexemplar und sehr selten”), and from the collections of H. O. O’Hagan, Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, 4 May 1908, 426, and Hobart Smith, Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, 31 May 1897. Estimate: 2,750 CHF.

This is quite an outstanding early profile eye tetradrachm: the head has an almost archaistic character, as if the engraver was deliberately harking back to the style of the late 6th and earliest 5th centuries. The vast majority of Athenian tetradrachms of the 4th century come from the great re-coinage, are struck on folded flans and are usually misshapen. Coins like the present one, struck on a fresh flan earlier in the century, are much rarer, primarily because all those issues were called in and restruck in 353.

MYSIA, Pergamon. 334-332 BC. Stater. Extremely rare, one of a very few examples known. Very minor flan fault on the obverse, otherwise, good extremely fine. From an American collection. Estimate: 40,000 CHF.

Struck from the same obverse die as the last (165), but from a different reverse die, this coin helps to show quite how small was the issue in which these coins were struck. If we are only dealing with single obverse die paired with two reverses, the total number of coins struck was probably not more than five talents, thus helping to explain why so few of them survived.

Trajan. AD 98-117. Sestertius. Attractive brown and gold toning. Nearly extremely fine. From a Swiss collection, ex Hess-Leu (19), 12 April 1962, 460 and from the Niklovits collection, L. Hamburger, 19 October 1925 (Ausländischer Amateur), 806. Estimate: 1,500 CHF.

Faustina Junior. Augusta, AD 147-175. Aureus. A lovely coin with a beautiful portrait of the young Augusta. Virtually as struck. From an American collection, ex Numismatica Ars Classica 59, 4 April 2011, 1023, Numismatica Ars Classica 41, 20 November 2007, 101 and from the collection of M. F. Price, Stack’s, 3 December 1996, 202. Estimate: 15,000 CHF.

Macrinus. AD 217-218. Denarius. Apparently unique and unknown. Well centered and attractive. Minor flan fault on the reverse, otherwise, extremely fine. From the collection of a European specialist. Estimate: 4,000 CHF.

This coin must have been issued just prior to Macrinus’ downfall and would have then been withdrawn, Aurei, sestertii, dupondii and asses with this type have long been known, but this is the first denarius to appear. This is not all that surprising: many Roman issues were originally produced in all metals but through the accidents of survival, only certain denominations are known today.

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