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Research Coins: Affiliated Auction

Sale: Nomos 3 & 4, Lot: 1207. Estimate CHF750. 
Closing Date: Monday, 9 May 2011. 
Sold For CHF2000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

THESSALY, Metropolis. Circa early 4th century BC. Triobol (Silver, 2.27 g 12). Head of Aphrodite Kastnia facing, turned slightly to left, wearing earring, pearl necklace and with a ‘melon’ hair style; to left, dove flying upwards; to right, Eros flying upwards to crown her. Rev. ΜΗΤΡΟΠΟ - [ΛΙΤΩΝ] Young Dionysos standing left, wearing short tunic, and holding a phiale in his right hand and long thyrsos in his left. Traité IV 520, pl. CCXC, 7-8 (both in Berlin). Extremely rare, very possibly the finest example known. Somewhat rough surfaces, otherwise , good very fine.

This coin is usually termed a diobol, which, on the face of it, given its diameter of 14 mm, seems totally impossible. Presumably, the reason why earlier commentators called it that is, of course, the fact that all existing examples of this type are damaged or are quite corroded (as the two in Berlin, cited by both Babelon and Head in HN); thus, their present weights are considerably less than they were when struck. As for the description, this also has to be slightly corrected: the bird on the obverse is definitely a dove and the figure behind Aphrodite’s head seems surely to be male, and thus must be Eros, a most suitable personage, rather than Nike.
A note from BCD: An example at the ANS, weighing 2.69 g and sharing the same obverse die as this coin, confirms the denomination as being a hemidrachm. The ANS coin was shown to me by Margaret Thompson in 1972 as being a recent Thessalian acquisition. She went on, with the usual twinkle in her eye, to say that the Society was still occasionally acquiring nice, rare coins of my collecting areas although she did not elaborate on the source. A few months later I met the original owner who, quite by accident, mentioned that he had sold such a coin to Joel Malter. I then found out that Silvia Hurter happened to visit Joel soon after, bought the coin and donated it to the ANS. I could never understand Silvia giving this coin to the ANS instead of selling it to me as she knew that Thessaly was my favorite collecting area. Her excuse was that she didn’t think I would like it was of “ugly style”. Well, it took me quite a number of years before I could find another one for my collection as these coins are definitely much rarer than the trihemiobols of earlier date and finer style (as, above, lot 1205). For a proposed down dating of this coin, and ASW’s objections to this, see my note after lot 1346.