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Research Coins: Electronic Auction

 
3520378

Extremely Rare Depiction of an Eel

352, Lot: 378. Estimate $150.
Sold for $700. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

EGYPT, Alexandria. Domitian. AD 81-96. Æ Dichalkon (14mm, 2.28 g, 12h). Dated RY 11 (AD 91/92). Laureate head left / Eel (or snake), with jaws open, swimming downward. Köln –; Dattari (Savio) –; K&G –; BMC 348 var. (laureate head right) = RPC I 2756 var. (same) = Emmett 335.11 (R5); Empire Coins 8 (1987), lot 394 var. (same). Fine, dark green patina, some roughness. Extremely rare.


One of the rarest types ever seen by this cataloguer in 40 years of studying Alexandrian coinage. Only two examples could be located: the British Museum example, and the coin sold by Empire Coins in 1987. The BM catalog describes the type as an “Uncertain object (eel?) fixed on stick,” but the present example shows no evidence of a “stick”.

Erik Christiansen, in his supplement to the BM catalog (1991), compares this coin to Mionnet Suppl. IX, no. 83, which is a vase type (oinochoe), but this type is definitely not a vase. Since the position of the regnal date orients the creature downward, with its jaws open, this would tend to confirm the identification as an eel.