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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Portrait of Tissaphernes?

CNG 103, Lot: 391. Estimate $500.
Sold for $1300. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

PERSIA, Achaemenid Empire. temp. Darios II to Artaxerxes II. Circa 413-401 BC. Fourrée Drachm core (14mm, 2.54 g, 12h). Dora mint. Bearded head right, wearing satrapal headdress / Owl standing right, head facing; [B]A to left; all within incuse square. S. Qedar, “Tissaphernes at Dor?” in Studies Mildenberg, Group D; Meadows, Administration 335 = SNG von Aulock 7636 (Sigeium). VF, rough brown surfaces. Very rare, Qedar notes eleven examples, only two in CoinArchives (one of which is of the eleven in Qedar).

The identification of the portrait on this coinage as the satrap Tissaphernes is still debated. Some scholars note a similarity in style between the portrait here and that found on bronze coins of Astyra where the satrap’s name appears below the bust. Others doubt this identification, most notably L. Mildenberg, in his article, “The So-Called Satrapal Coinage” in MIMAA. Nonetheless, the location of the mint is fairly secure, as six of the eleven known to Qedar were found in the Dora excavations. The prior attribution by von Aulock, followed by Meadows, to Sigeion was merely due to his acquisition of his coin there, and the fact that owls appear on issues of that city. Although these coins appear to have been from an issue of bronze, the last of the eleven coins that Qedar saw had silver plating, which appeared him to be original to the coin, leading him to conclude that all were originally fourrée drachms.