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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Tenth Known Phanes Trite

CNG 91, Lot: 271. Estimate $50000.
Sold for $71500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

IONIA, Ephesos. Phanes. Circa 625-600 BC. EL Trite (14mm, 4.67 g). ΦANEOS (in retrograde archaic Greek), stag grazing right, its dappled coat indicated by indentations on the body / Two incuse punches, each with raised intersecting lines. Weidauer 40 = ACGC 54 = Kraay & Hirmer 585 = GPCG p. 98, 3; SNG München 14 = Aufhäuser 8, lot 140; Gemini V, lot 619 (same die and punches); Gorny & Mosch 159, lot 189; CNG 66, lot 446 (same die and punches); Tkalec, 19 February 2001, lot 116 (same die and punches); Berk inv. cc57640; CNG inv. 922163. Good VF, lightly toned. Extremely rare.

The celebrated coins of Phanes – the first coins on which a legend appears – are known to be among the earliest of Greek coins, as a hemihekte (twelfth stater) of the issue was found in the famous foundation deposit of the temple of Artemis at Ephesos. It is this find spot, along with the design of the grazing stag (an animal associated with Artemis and which was used on later Ephesian issues), that has suggested Ephesos as the mint.

The Phanes coinage consists of seven denominations, from stater down to 1/96 stater, with some denominations occurring in different varieties (the stag facing in different directions and sometimes associated with the symbol of a pentagram or a triad of pellets). Only the two largest denominations bear the name of Phanes. The approximately four known staters carry the legend ΦΑΝΕΟΣ ΕΜΙ ΣΗΜΑ (or similar) (“I am the badge of Phanes”), and the ten known trites (third staters) bear just the name ΦΑΝΕΟΣ (“of Phanes”). The Phanes who issued these coins is otherwise unattested. The use of a personal name at this early point in the development of coinage is instructive. We know from these coins that the responsibility for the issue was personal – whether the issuer was an official or a private individual – rather than collective, i.e. the citizenry as a whole.

There are currently only ten Phanes trites known, struck from four obverse dies and five pairs of punches:

1) Die A / punches α1

a) London, British Museum (BM reg. no. 1948,0705.1) = GPCG p. 98, 3 = Weidauer 40 = ACGC 54 = AGC 15 = Kraay & Hirmer 585

2) Die A / punches β2

a) Harlan J. Berk BBS 159 (3 June 2008), no. 1

3) Die B / punches γ3

a) Gorny & Mosch 159 (8 October 2007), lot 189

4) Die C / punches δ4

a) Classical Numismatic Group 66 (19 May 2004), lot 446
b) Private collection
c) Gemini V (6 January 2009), lot 619
d) Zhuyuetang 8 = A. Tkalec (19 February 2001), lot 116
e) Harlan J. Berk BBS 156 (23 October 2007), no. 3
f) Classical Numismatic Group 91 (19 September 2012), lot 270 (present coin)

5) Die D / punches ε5

a) Munich, Staatliche Münzsammlung (SNG München 14) = Aufhäuser 8 (8 October 1991), lot 140

Interestingly, while there is some consistency in the patterns of the reverse punches, none were used with more than one obverse die. It thus appears that the reverse punches were paired to specific obverse dies, and there was no sharing between them. There was sharing between denominations, however. For example, Weidauer 37 is an electrum hemihekte that uses reverse punch 4 of the trites listed above. These interdenominational punch links conclusively connect the anepigraphic, yet stylistically similar, fractions to the Phanes-signed staters and trites.