5 November 2023
By Alan Walker
Yes, Fall has begun here in Switzerland – leaves are starting to drift down from the trees, children are marching off to school, cows are coming down from their alpine summer pastures, and coin aficionados are gearing up for the auction season, which has, in fact, already started. Our next sales, Nomos 29 and 30, will be taking place on November 5th and 6th, 2023, they are already online and the printed catalogues will be out very soon too. You may well be wondering why they are not already out, well, you know… In fact, an almost unbelievably incredible concatenation of circumstances occurred, of which none can be made public for sixty years due to the strictures of the Official Secrets Act; it’s like the Da Vince Code.
Nomos 29 – Collection sans Pareille, Part 2
Nomos 29 contains the second part of the Collection sans Pareille, which, as you all know, made its first appearance in Nomos 26. While we did have 550 lots of wonderful coins in that sale, it could have had more – a lot more, in fact – so here they are. Continuing the numbering of Nomos 26, we start with lot 551, a tritartemorion from Massalia and, with a total of 390 lots, we end with lot 940, a late 5th century BC obol from Askalon. Once again there is an extraordinary selection of fascinating coins: including more than just a few really tiny pieces; some which are from uncertain mints; some that are variants or duplicates of the coins that appeared in Nomos 26; and some pieces that are completely new! Here are a few highlights for today…
Lot 562: This wonderful Tarentine diobol dates to c. 380-325 BC (lot 562, est. 500 CHF) and is both of particularly fine style as well as being particularly elegant. It came from the collection of Leo Mildenberg; he got it in 1975 from someone called “Bob”, who, if it was who we think it was, was also famous for his good eye.
Lot 598: This looks like the obverse of a stater from Metapontum, doesn’t it? Well. It’s not, it’s a unique triobol from Laos, struck c. 453-390 BC (lot 598, est. 650 CHF)!
Lot 612: What we have here is the unusual obverse of a Himeran litra dating to 415-409 BC (lot 612, est. 250 CHF). We see the head and shoulders of a winged monster with a lion’s paw, and with what seems to be a normal female human head; except that there is a goat’s horn coming out over her forehead. Who is this woman? One would suppose a sphinx, but the goat’s horn makes that unlikely. Perhaps a harpy of some kind?
Lot 623: Here is another extremely rare coin, with a wonderful obverse and a very poorly preserved reverse (lot 623, est. 450 CHF). It is apparently an obol from Katane dating to c. 405-403/402 BC, and was once, prior to 1963, in the collection of the great numismatist and dealer, H. Herzfelder.
Lot 699: Once again a surprise! This is a Chalkidian League diobol, minted in Olynthos c. 425-420 BC, and is extremely rare, if not unique (lot 699, est. 500 CHF). This seems, from stylistic evidence, to be the earliest of all known Olynthian diobols.
Lot 748: Now we come to an extremely rare hemiobol of the Euboian League, which was once in the BCD Collection, the Wallace Collection, and, back in 1909, in the collection of G. Philipsen (lot 748, est. 350 CHF). Who could ask for more?
Lot 780: This odd little fellow – a hemiobol – is very rare, indeed. But where is it from? All the known examples seem to have been found in the 19th century – this piece (lot 780, est. 450 CHF) once belonged to L. Mildenberg and was in the Bement Collection (Naville VII, 1924, 1904), where it was classified as being an uncertain coin struck in Europe or Asia! Luckily BCD Peloponnesos had one too (1037), which came from Weber, and is actually certainly from Argos.
Lot 809: Isn’t this a wonderful little hemiobol! Wouldn’t it be nice if we knew from where it came! Well, we can narrow its origins down to western Asia Minor, probably in the area ranging from Troas to Ionia, and its date to circa 480-460 BC, but that’s about it (lot 809, est. 400 CHF). It comes from one of those Aufhäuser sales (this was in October 1998), which, thanks to the discerning eye of their numismatist A. Wenninger, who so astutely sifted through the market in Munich, were famous for the interesting and intriguing coins they contained. He didn’t know what it was either, but we can all agree on how impressive and endearing it is!
Lot 841: Yet another endearing coin!! This is a rare hemihekte from Halikarnassos dating to c. 480-470 BC (lot 841, est. 400 CHF). On the obverse is probably the forepart of Pegasos to left (but could it be a hippocamp?), and the reverse shows us the head and neck of a goat who is thought to be on a leash. The style of this coin really does hark back to the painting found on the ancient pottery from nearby Rhodes – for example, the earlier Wild Goat Style, especially the way the three pellets appear on the reverse, in the manner of filling ornaments.
Lot 866: What is happening here? This appears to be a boy riding on a dolphin, which, of course, immediately makes one think of Tarentum; but of course, it is not from Tarentum – it is a tetartemorion that, when it appeared in an M&M FPL back in 1977, was identified as coming from Iasos, because a boy and a dolphin does appear on coins from there. In any case, another problem comes from the obverse, which bears a facing female head – is it a nymph, a goddess or a gorgon? Alas, this facing head has nothing to do with either Tarentum or Iasos; as an ensemble it looks rather Cilician! And, in any event, it is a coin that becomes more and more interesting the more you look at it!
Soon, we will present highlights from Nomos 30 – but here is a coming attraction: Lot 1099 is a wonderful bronze coin, a very rare tetras from the city of Naxos in Sicily and dates to c. 425-420 BC. On the obverse is the laureate head of the river-god Assinos, and on the reverse we see a stemmed kantharos, just like others that appear on some coins from Naxos and on tetradrachms from Mende. This coin (lot 1099, est. 2500 CHF), from the splendid collection of the Emeritus Professor of Physics, P.P. Urone, was previously in that of A. D. Moretti (its worth noting that Virzi did not have one) and is outstandingly beautiful. And this is but one lot out of an auction of 536…