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Research Coins: Feature Auction


The Earliest Baktrian Gold?

Triton XV, Lot: 1342. Estimate $50000.
Sold for $30000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

BAKTRIA, Pre-Seleukid Era. Uncertain. 4th century BC. AV (17mm, 3.44 g, 5h). Forepart of boar right / Forepart of lion right. Cf. CNG 87, 604 (silver, but no monogram below boar); CNG E-243, 15 (same, but with monogram); cf. CNG E-225, 159 (silver, but no monogram); cf. CNG 73, 420, second coin (same); otherwise unpublished. Near EF, traces of deposits in devices, a couple of minor field marks. Unique.

This unique and puzzling gold coin raises various questions. It is clearly in the same series as a small group of silver fractions of identical types and style that have trickled onto the market over the past five years: CNG 73, lot 420 (2nd coin); CNG E-225, lot 159; CNG E-243, lot 153, and CNG 87, lot 604. Those are all silver fractions of the same types and the same distinct style as the present coin, with weights averaging 1.12g. Some of the coins have a monogram beneath the boar. Two additional fractions of the same weight and basic types, but with a scorpion behind the boar forepart, are probably to be associated with this general group: CNG E-131, lot 78; and CNG 73, lot 420 (first coin). Although the types suggest an origin in Asia Minor (compare the coinage of Kyzikos), anecdotal information has suggested that some of these silver fractions are suspected to emanate from an area further east in the region of Baktria.

The weight of the present coin (3.44 g) is likewise mysterious. It does not seem to bear any clear relationship to the weight standards prevalent in the eastern Mediterranean. It is, interestingly, almost exactly three times the weight of the associated silver fractions, suggesting that the coins may have been intended to circulate locally in a closed exchange area rather than as part of the international financial system. The unusual weight on an apparent local standard supports the suggestion above that this issue should be attributed to some region in central Asia remote from western commerce.