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Research Coins: Affiliated Auction

Sale: Nomos 1, Lot: 32. Estimate CHF20000. 
Closing Date: Tuesday, 5 May 2009. 
Sold For CHF19000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

THRACE, Abdera. Circa 480-473/0 BC. Tetradrachm (Silver, 14.60 g), magistrate Dam.... Griffin seated left, with open wings and both forelegs raised; above to left, ΔΑΜ Rev. Quadripartite incuse square. AMNG II, 18. May, Abdera 71. Very rare. An exceptional piece, beautifully toned and perfectly struck. Good extremely fine.

From the Spina collection, ex Triton VII, 12 January 2004, 157.

This must be one of the finest late archaic tetradrachms of Abdera in existence. The griffin seems to be rising up on his back legs, raising his clawed forepaws to ward off an enemy. Griffins were a favorite creature in the mythology of the Greeks and their neighbors to the east - as is well known they were said to be the guardians of the sources of gold in central Asia. For a convincing explanation of the origin of the myth of the griffin, see A. Mayor’s The First Fossil Hunters (Princeton, 2000): she identifies the source of the griffin as being fossils of the dinosaur protoceratops, which are found in outcrops in the Gobi and suggests that since sand storms often swallowed up whole caravans, later travelers, seeing the white bones of men, horses and camels in close proximity to the equally white fossils believed them to be contemporary, and thought them to be evidence of a battle between humans and monsters. The use of the griffin on the coinage of Abdera was due to the arrival of most of the population of Ionian Teos in 544 - when they fled from Persian domination they brought their griffin symbol with them.