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Research Coins: Feature Auction


The Liberation of Olympia

Triton XV, Lot: 1180. Estimate $30000.
Sold for $30000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

ELIS, Olympia. 105th Olympiad. 360 BC. AR Tetradrachm (24mm, 12.14 g, 11h). Head of Zeus left, wearing laurel wreath; [FAΛEION to left] / Head of the nymph Olympia right, hair in sphendone, wearing single-pendant earring; OΛYMΠIA to right; all within incuse circle. Seltman, Temple 175 (dies CA/δλ); BCD Olympia 118; SNG Copenhagen –; BMC 71–2; SNG Delepierre 2144; Gulbenkian 544 = Jameson 1235; ACGC 334 (all from the same dies). Good VF, a little die rust on obverse. Extremely rare, the seventh known, one of only two not in a museum collection.

This impressive type was struck for the 105th Olympiad, an event whose coinage was struck in celebration of the Eleans’ liberation of the sanctuary of Olympia following the withdrawal of the Arkadians in 363 BC. For this issue, both workshops at Olympia were employed, one of which had been closed since 380 BC. Master engravers were also employed, as evidenced by this particular type whose depiction of Zeus is more refined and delicate compared to the usual Elean issues, where Zeus’ portrait usually has an element of severity. For this special issue, the portrait of the nymph Olympia appears for the first time, in bold style, accompanied by the inscription OLUMPIA. Together with the obverse inscription, the coin reads, “Olympia belongs to the Eleans.” Truly a remarkable type.