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Research Coins: Affiliated Auction

Sale: Nomos 3 & 4, Lot: 1437. Estimate CHF600. 
Closing Date: Monday, 9 May 2011. 
Sold For CHF2400. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

THESSALY. 5th and 4th centuries BC. A lot of 6silver fractions, either from Thessaly or of Thessalian type, most unique, but all of uncertain mints. . 1437.1Possibly Krannon. Hemiobol, 0.42 g 12. Head of a young man (Thessalos?) to right, wearing petasos; above, Π - Ι. Rev. Κ[Ρ?]Α Horse’s head right. Assuming that the Ρ is certain, this would be an unpublished and unknown issue of Krannon, dating to around the last quarter of the 5th century (or perhaps a bit later). It would have been inspired by the 5th century Taurokathapsia issues (as above, lots 77-80), but is clearly later and might be an archaizing revival. 1437.2Possibly Phalanna. Obol, 0.75 g 2. Bust of a nymph to right, holding a mirror before her face; behind, uncertain letter; before, Π. Rev. Φ...Ν...ΩΝ Figure wearing short hunting dress standing before horse to right. Unpublished and unique, but the obverse type seems related to the chalkous from Phalanna that appears, above, as lot 261. 1437.3Possibly Phaloria. Trihemiobol, 0.93 g 10. Head and neck of a wolf to right, with a bone in its jaws and with its paws outstretched to right. Rev. Figure on horseback to right, possibly holding a lagobolon in his upraised right hand - traces of letters in the field. 1437.4Unknown mint. Obol (?), 0.94 g 10. Head of Athena to right, wearing crested Attic helmet. Rev. ...ΟΝΟΥ...ΩΝ Dionysos standing left, holding cup (?) in his outstretched right hand and resting his left at his waist; in lower field to right, bunch of grapes. Unpublished and unknown. 1437.5Possibly Macedonian. Obol (?), 0.64 g. Horse feeding to left. Rev.Quadripartite incuse square Unpublished, but from the same reverse die as the following coin. 1437.6Possibly Macedonian. Obol (?), 0.46 g. Horse feeding to right. Rev. Quadripartite incuse square, from the same die as the last. Unpublished. A fascinating group of coins, but what are they? . All with some traces of corrosion, otherwise, good fine or better (6).

The above commentaries on the individual coins are based on BCD’s own opinions; what follows are ideas from ASW.
These coins are the kind of enigmas every serious collector tends to accumulate. They are all said to have been found in Thessaly, but either have no identifying inscription, or only tantalizing traces of one. 4137.1 is almost certainly Krannon: its types immediately are reminiscent of the bronzes from Krannon that appear above as lot 82. While BCD prefers to view this coin as a 5th century issue, its connection with the later bronzes makes me think it is early 4th century. While it was originally thought to be an obol, 1437.3 is quite corroded and must have lost a good deal of weight - it is also struck on a very broad flan, which makes it look too large to be anything less than a trihemiobol. The animal forepart on the obverse could be a wolf, but it may well actually be some sort of hunting dog: it is remarkably well made. As for 1437.4, this is one of those maddening coins that has a nearly legible inscription, but we still do not know what it says. I am tempted by the idea that it is not Thessalian at all, but that is probably the counsel of despair! BCD thinks it looks rather Asia-Minorian: if so it remains a problem but not, as it were, our problem! As for 1437.5-6, these coins are surely not Thessalian and must come from Macedonia. In any case the reverse incuse die they share is not one that was used by any of the normal Thessalian mints. While Thessalian horses have surely influenced the obverses of these coins, the horses we see here are also not very Thessalian, especially the second with its large head and prominent eye: he seems rather Northern in style.
A note from BCD: Unfortunately, this time ASW will not have the last word (he did on BCD Peloponnesos). The “normal Thessalian mints” he mentions have never produced coins with an unepigraphic incuse square, not to our knowledge, anyway. However, there is a rumour of a Larissa stater existing with an obverse exactly like the obverse of lot 1095 in this catalogue, only on a larger scale, and with an incuse square reverse. But this is only a rumour and until the coin appears somewhere and can be examined, its supposed existence can not be used as an argument. So perhaps it is about time to propose a minting location for lots 1437.5 and 1437.6, and I believe that a Thessalian mint would fit the bill equally well as a Macedonian one. The weights, already being very different, are of no consequence at this time and even if more specimens are located, and weighed, it would still be unwise to expect them to conform to the Aeginetan weight standard. These were early times and the issue would obviously be more of a trial than the regular, bulk output of an established mint. As far as the “large head and prominent eye” being “rather Northern in style”, such criteria can hardly be of value for distinguishing horse breeds of two adjacent areas.
Finally, for the “unbelievers”, such as ASW and possibly many others, I have an alternative “compromise” solution. Even if these horse/incuse coins were struck at a northern mint, why do they always have Thessalian provenances and find spots? We know that coins tended to gravitate or “emigrate” to areas where their iconography was familiar to the locals and therefore more likely to be accepted without raising any doubts. Could it be that this type was struck by an early Macedonian king for “export”, i.e. with the Thessalian market in mind? If so, it has a right to be listed in a Thessaly catalogue, the same way as the well-known ΕΡΜΙΑΣ Rhodian imitations struck by Perseus appear in many auction catalogues under “Thessaly”.