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Ancient Greek Coin Sells for a Record $6M at Swiss Auction

ancient Greek coin
The ancient Greek coin which sold for $6 million. Credit: Numismatica Ars Classica

A rare ancient Greek coin broke records earlier this month when it was sold for $6 million at an auction in Switzerland.

A private collector acquired the 2,400-year-old gold stater, which was minted approximately between 340 and 25 BC. It originated from an ancient Greek city in Crimea.

The coin’s exceptionally high price can be attributed to its excellent quality, rarity, and the scarcity of similar specimens available on the market.

Record-breaking ancient Greek coin sells for $6 million

The ancient Greek coin is an example of a Panticapaeum stater, in reference to the ancient Greek city in modern-day Crimea, although the Greeks themselves referred to the city as Taurica (Greek: Ταυρική) .

The coin was reportedly sold to a wealthy private collector at the Numismatica Ars Classica in Switzerland on May 19. The auction house describes itself as “The house of the finest ancient coins.”

Arturo Russo, the co-director at Numismatica Ars Classica, commented on the sale, saying, “I am extremely pleased with the phenomenal result the sale of the Panticapaeum stater achieved at our latest auction in Zurich.”

“This is a sign the whole market for numismatics is flourishing, and is especially strong for ancients at the moment,” he added.

The previous record for the most expensive ancient coin sold at an auction was set in 2020 by one of the three existing “Ides of March” coins, minted in 42 BC to mark the assassination of Julius Caesar.

This particular coin was sold at the Roma Numismatics auction house for $4.2 million. However, subsequent investigations revealed that the coin had been accompanied by falsified provenance, casting doubt on its authenticity.

Historical details

Minted around 340-25 BC, the coin showcases a satyr with wide eyes on its obverse side, while the reverse side portrays a griffin clutching a spear in its beak.

The inclusion of the satyr, a mischievous creature from Greek mythology depicted as a man with horse ears and a tail, is believed to be a reference to King Satyrus I. He reigned over the Greco-Scythian Bosporan Kingdom in eastern Crimea from 432 to 389 BC.

Due to the intricacy of the coin’s design, numismatists believe that the ancient Greek coin was the creation of a skilled master engraver. Unlike other coins of its kind, this Panticapaeum stater presents the satyr in a three-quarters left-facing position, deviating from the conventional fully left-facing depiction. Experts speculate that this alteration was made to align with prevailing contemporary artistic trends.

Previously housed within the collection of the State Hermitage Museum, the ancient Greek coin was eventually sold off in 1934 as a result of Stalin’s initiative to sell artworks and generate foreign currency to support domestic industrial development.

It was subsequently acquired by Charles Gillet, a French industrialist renowned for his avid interest in amassing rare books, furniture, antiquities, and a notable collection of coins.

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