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Research Coins: Affiliated Auction

Sale: Nomos 3 & 4, Lot: 1029. Estimate CHF800. 
Closing Date: Monday, 9 May 2011. 
Sold For CHF5500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

THESSALY, Atrax. Circa 360s-340s BC. Obol (Silver, 0.81 g 6), Euei.... ΕΥΕΙ Facing bust of the nymph Bura, her head turned slightly to the left, with her hair long and curly and wearing robes lightly draping her breasts. Rev. ΑΤΡΑ - Γ Ι - ΩΝ Horse standing right. Demetriadi 2000, 1 and pl. 6, 1 . Extremely rare, a coin of great interest and beauty. Slightly rough surfaces, otherwise, nearly extremely fine.

This coin is fascinating, unexpected and somewhat mysterious! The female bust on the obverse must be of Bura, the local nymph, but the way she is represented is quite unusual: unlike almost all facing female busts in Greek numismatics, here her breasts are shown, modestly but lightly covered by her diaphanous robes. We also have a magistrate’s name, the otherwise unknown Euei..., on the obverse. Its position is quite reminiscent of the way magistrates’ names appear on the later coinages of the Ainianes or the Thessalian League, but such a late date for a silver obol is clearly impossible. It seems much more likely that this is yet another coinage of the 4th century: not only are the reverse type and the legend breaks exactly the same as those on the issue of Eubatas,which follows, the use of a name on the obverse exactly parallels that found on the following two bronzes, which almost certainly have to be 4th century. When this type was first published by Demetriadi in 2000 he was reticent about identifying the figure on the obverse as the nymph Bura and thought that the inscription might be an engraver’s name. However, I think he was too cautious: the female bust simply has to be that of Bura (after all, who else could it be?), and the letters must refer to a magistrate rather than to an engraver, if only because of their prominence. One might suggest that this very rare issue of obols was actually produced as a donation to the city by the wealthy citizen whose name appears abbreviated on the obverse.