Home Arts Ancient Greek Crimean gold coin sells for record £4.8m

Ancient Greek Crimean gold coin sells for record £4.8m

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A gold stater has sold for over £4.8million, setting a record for the most expensive ancient coin sold at auction. The ancient Greek coin was sold at a Numismatica Ars Classica auction in Zurich last week for 5.39 million Swiss francs with fees.

The stater depicts the satyr’s head on one side and a griffin holding a spear in its mouth on the other. In an unusual design choice, the satyr’s head is depicted in a three-quarter pose rather than the more common profile position typically seen on similar staters. Its value is attributed by the seller to this quirk of design as well as its rarity; it was thought to be one of only three such in existence, and the only one not in a museum collection. Numismatica Ars Classica refused to disclose the identity of the buyer

The gold coin was made in the 4th century BC in the ancient Greek city of Panticapaeum, near present-day Kerch on the eastern coast of Crimea. Panticapaeum was part of the Bosphorus kingdom and the satyr on the coin may be a reference to the Spartacid king Satyros I, who ruled the Greco-Scythian state from 432 BC to 389 BC. The griffin, on the other hand, represents the mythical guardians of the gold deposits found in the mountains of Scythia.

The stater was once part of the collection of the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg until the early 1930s, when the museum sold many of its treasures to raise funds for the Soviet government. At that time, the Hermitage also sold paintings like Raphaël The Madonna of Alba (circa 1511) and Jan van Eyck The Annunciation (1434-1436), which later formed the main collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

The reverse of the coin shows a griffin holding a spear in its mouth Courtesy of Numismatica Ars Classica

Godfrey Locker Lampson, an early 20th century British politician and noted collector of ancient Greek coins who owned a coin struck from the same coin, once wrote of his design: “The satyr’s head is a marvel of speaking portrait . That so many expressions could be packed into such a small tower would not be believed by anyone who had not seen it.

While the stater holds the record for the most expensive ancient coin, the most expensive coin ever sold at auction is a 1933 $20 double eagle gold specimen, which grossed $18.9 million at Sotheby’s in 2021.

Last week’s sale of the stater helped Numismatica Ars Classica earn some mint in its spring sales. “The entire auction achieved exceptionally high prices totaling over SFr21m, well exceeding a pre-sale estimate of SFr11m,” says Arturo Russo, co-director of Numismatica Ars Classica. “It’s a sign that the whole numismatic market is booming, and that it’s particularly strong for oldies right now.”

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