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Research Coins: Affiliated Auction

Sale: Nomos 1, Lot: 72. Estimate CHF15000. 
Closing Date: Tuesday, 5 May 2009. 
Sold For CHF13000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

ELIS, Olympia. 105th Olympiad. 360 BC. Drachm (Silver, 5.78 g 9), Hera mint. Head of the eponymous nymph Olympia facing, turned slightly to the left, wearing necklace of pearls, broad ribbon across the top of her forehead and with her hair flowing loose Rev. FΑ Eagle, with closed wings, standing right on Ionic column capital; to left, kerykeion; all within olive wreath. BCD Olympia -. Seltman, Temple pl. XII, 13 (same dies) = Traité III, 1131 and pl. CCXXXIII, 13. Of the highest rarity, the second example known. Good very fine.

This is one of the very greatest rarities of the coinage of Olympia. The only other example now known is in Paris, but it is in dreadful condition. The type is very clearly taken from the facing head of Arethusa by Kimon on the renowned tetradrachms of Syracuse (as Kraay/Hirmer 122-123, Tudeer 78 and 81), which also influenced the coinage of Larissa. The artist who engraved the dies for this coin was highly accomplished: it was very likely the same D... who signed a the very similar reverse die θτ, which was used for staters that are paired with the famous obverse die EW (cf. BCD Olympia 123 for the reverse die and 122 for a superb example of the obverse). The quality of the facing head obverse is exceptional and is by no means just a copy of Kimon’s Arethusa like so many others are. Here, just as with the profile head from die EW on the staters, we have a nymph who is no easy person; she is, rather, a woman of power and importance. In his introduction to my Olympia catalogue, BCD wrote of his passion and of “...the endless - and thankless - task of searching for the real rarities, which one never finds.” Well, here is a great rarity that escaped BCD’s obsessive search. No doubt after he sees this coin he will wish that he had delayed his Olympia auction until the London Olympics!