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Research Coins: Affiliated Auction

Sale: Nomos 3 & 4, Lot: 1367. Estimate CHF3000. 
Closing Date: Monday, 9 May 2011. 
Sold For CHF55000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

ISLANDS off THESSALY, Skyros. c. 485-480 BC. Didrachm (Silver, 8.75 g 12). Two long horned and bearded goats, opposed vertically, back to back, with their heads turned inwards and their legs extended; between them, five-lobed fig leaf. Rev. Stellate design composed of a large central globule surrounded by four smaller ones and by two rays (towards the upper left and lower right) and two three-lobed fig leaves (towards the upper right and lower left); all within incuse square; die breaks at top, mid left edge and lower left edge. Balcer dies A.7/P.4 (same dies, and with the same die breaks as Balcer 16-18). Very rare. Darkly toned. Roughly struck, otherwise, good very fine.

Ex Myers 13, 9 December 1976, 157 ($3200).

The coinage of Skyros has been particularly problematic since its first discovery. This is because it was almost immediately copied, and copied very well, by Constantine Christodoulos, Svoronos’ great enemy. As a result, until Balcer’s study of 1978, some people believed that all Skyrian coins were inventions, while others were convinced that some were and some, obviously, were not. Having the BCD examples to study helps to clarify things. The key factor is the behaviour of the didrachm reverse die, Balcer’s P4 (this was carefully copied by Christodoulos, Balcer P3, but the shape of the incuse square is uneven and the individual parts of the design are differently sized). What we see is that there are a number of progressive faults in the die, which grow and change over time.
1) On the lower left there are a pair of faults that appear as holes, which soon take over part of the fig leaf (the fact that these faults are advanced on Balcer 5-6 surely means that they were, in fact, struck marginally later than Balcer 7-18).
2) At the top of the reverse there is a curly fault, looking like a tendril, that comes out of the ray on the upper left: this clearly visible on Balcer 12, 14, 16-18. This fault is coupled with another fault that comes out of the left side of the incuse square. However, both of these defects were removed since they do not appear on Balcer 5, 9, 13, etc. where the fault on the lower left is actually larger!
3). On the obverse, a diagonal fault begins at the bottom and can be easily seen on Balcer 9-10, 13-17. At some point, however, the entire obverse die is recut (!) to produce Balcer A.6 (!!), which has goats that are almost hornless, a differently shaped fig leaf, slightly different legs, etc. Yet it is clear that Balcer A6 and A7 are the same, as can be seen when Balcer 7 and 11 are compared. The apparent differences (as between Balcer 10 and 11, for example) are surely solely due to die wear.

This leads me to suggest that the original coinage must have been a very extensive one, struck from crudely made dies that were highly subject to wear and deterioration. The coinage itself must have served as a way for the Skyrian pirates to utilize their ill gotten gains, but its non-Skyrian users must have melted them down, hence their extreme rarity today.