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Research Coins: Feature Auction


First Gold Coinage of Pergamon

Triton XV, Lot: 1204. Estimate $100000.
Sold for $80000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

MYSIA, Pergamon. Circa 350-320 BC. AV Stater (18mm, 8.62 g, 12h). Head of Herakles right, wearing lion skin / Archaistic Palladion: statue of Pallas Athena standing facing, holding spear aloft in right hand, preparing to strike, on left arm, a shield adorned with a four-point star and fillet hanging below; to lower left, a crested Corinthian helmet right; all within cupped circular incuse. SNG France 1557 = De Luynes 2493 = Saida 37; Von Fritze, Pergamon 7 = Saida 36 var. (rev. not incuse); Gulbenkian 699 var. (same); Jameson 2580 var. (same); PCG pl. 28, 25 var. (same). Superb EF, underlying luster, light cleaning hairlines, a few nicks in the fields. Very rare.

This intriguing series has traditionally been attributed to Pergamon based on silver fractions with the same types accompanied by the city ethnic, ΠEPΓA(M) (SNG France 1558-66). The date of issue, however, is less certain. Although SNG France placed it circa 310-284 BC, this dating ignores the fact that two of these coins were found in the Saida hoard, which was deposited circa 323/20 BC. In an analysis of the hoard, U. Westermark saw a correlation between these staters and those of Philippi in Macedon (an example of which was in the hoard), and accordingly dated them to after 336 BC (echoed by G.K. Jenkins and M. Castro Hipólito in the Gulbenkian catalog), based on Mørkholm's placement of the Philippi issues during the reign of Alexander (EHC pp. 84-5). Mørkholm's date, however, is based on the single coin of Philippi in the Saida hoard (Saida 34), which was of such high grade that he thought it must have been struck near the date of the hoard's deposit. Nonetheless, the hoard also contained an early issue of Pantikapaion (Saida 35) of similar grade, which is traditionally dated to circa 350 BC (or earlier, see MacDonald 31: 380-370 BC). Further, other numismatists place the Philippi staters earlier, circa 356-345 BC (Bellinger, Philippi p. 37, and N. Waggoner in SNG ANS). What has also been overlooked is that there are apparently two groups in this series, differentiated by the form of the reverse die. One issue has a reverse die that forms a cup-shape circular incuse, while the other forms a flat surface without incuse. These cup-shape incuses were prevalent in Greek coinage from the late 5th century, and are mostly replaced by flat-surface, non-incuse issues by the middle of the 4th century. Considering these factors, an inception date circa 350 BC is possible for the series (and also argues for the earlier dating of the Philippi coinage). Some have argued for a later date, after Alexander's conquest, based on the similarity of the obverse type with the iconic Alexander type coinage. While this similarity may be correct, it is not certain that this type was influenced by the Alexander coinage, or whether it was influenced by the same source that influenced the Alexanders, such that the date of the respective coinages are not related. In fact, many cities in Asia Minor struck this type, often well before the conquerer's lifetime (e.g. Herakleia Pontika, Erythrai in Ionia, Telmessos in Lycia, Mallos in Cilicia, and the island Kos). Nevertheless, the particular style of the features of this obverse suggests a close relationship to the Alexanders (particularly the drachms from his mints in western Asia Minor), which begs a date late in Alexander's reign, or shortly thereafter, circa 325-320 BC. In sum, at the current state of the evidence, this coinage cannot be dated more precisely than the period circa 350-320 BC.