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Research Coins: Affiliated Auction

Sale: Nomos 3 & 4, Lot: 1198. Estimate CHF2500. 
Closing Date: Monday, 9 May 2011. 
Sold For CHF60000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

THESSALY, Melitaia. First half of the 4th century BC. Hemidrachm (Silver, 3.03 g 6). Laureate head of Zeus to right, his hair and mustache finely trimmed. Rev. Μ-Ε-Λ Forepart of a bull to right, his head slightly facing; all within an oak wreath with acorns. Cf. Traité IV, 470 and pl. CCLXXXVIII, 7 (a drachm with a head of Zeus and the reverse of a bull, surely by the same die cutter). Unique, a coin of great beauty and significance. Toned and of splendid early 4th century style. Extremely fine.

Ex The Numismatic Auction 2, 12 December 1983, 100 ($7500).

The silver coinage of Melitaia must have been struck in a single episode, probably during the first quarter of the 4th century. Apparently only a very few examples are known, the famous and unique drachm in Boston (once in the collection of Photiades Pasha = Traité IV 470), this hemidrachm (apparently once in an old Greek collection prior to its appearance in the 1983 sale), the diobol cited in HN² (p. 301; this coin may be misdescribed), and an obol in Berlin (once in the collection of Count A. F. von Prokesch-Osten = Traité IV 471 and SNG Munich 115: the types on this coin, head of Dionysos/Lion’s head, are rather unexpected for Melitaia and this coin may also not be from Thessaly [BCD suggests Knidos in Caria]). These pieces were accompanied by somewhat more common bronzes, all with a bee as the reverse type and with either Zeus or a nymph on the obverse. The unifying characteristics of the earliest bronzes and the two known silver coins are their superb style: while the coinage was clearly a limited one, the city authorities insisted on having coins that were superbly designed and of very high quality - as this coin certainly is.
A note from BCD: One of the most desirable coins in this catalogue and indeed in all BCD collections. At the time that this coin went up for auction the consignor, belonging to the old fashioned school of dealers that would not allow anything to be sold below the price they thought was the right price, placed a ‘last moment’ bid on this piece that was quite out of proportion with the other reserves of the sale. Fortunately, when the coin “opened” at $7000, it took just one bid from ASW acting on behalf of BCD to secure it. It is now estimated at a fraction of that price and may offer its new owner not only the joy of acquiring a fascinating and unique coin, but perhaps also the satisfaction of knowing that the price paid is a bargain when compared to the hammer price of nearly 30 years ago.