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Research Coins: Feature Auction


The Finest Antinoüs Æ Drachm in Private Hands

Triton XXI, Lot: 96. Estimate $50000.
Sold for $47500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

EGYPT, Alexandria. Antinoüs. Died AD 130. Æ Drachm (33mm, 26.65 g, 12h). Dated RY 21 of Hadrian (AD 136/137). ANTINOOV • HPωOC •, draped bust left, wearing hem-hem crown / Antinoüs (as Hermes), wearing chlamys, holding caduceus with his right hand, on horseback right; L KA (date) across field. Cf. Köln 1281; Dattari (Savio) 2089 (this coin – illustrated on pl. II for the obverse, and pl. VIII for the reverse); K&G 34a.5; RPC III 6228/13 (this coin, illustrated on pl. 316); Emmett 1346.21 (R3); Staffieri, Alexandria In Nummis 96 (this coin). EF, dark brown patina with touches of green. Rare. An exceptional, high relief specimen with a portrait of the finest style, and certainly engraved by a master.

From the Giovanni Maria Staffieri Collection, purchased from Dr. Piero Beretta, Milan, October 1976. Ex Dr. Piero Beretta Collection (Milan); Giovanni Dattari Collection, no. 2089.

This coin is Giovanni’s favorite coin in his collection, and he used it as the cover coin for his book, Alexandria In Nummis. He also considers it the finest known example in private hands. Giovanni purchased this coin from Dr. Piero Beretta (1925-1994), and as he relates in his book, it was a “financial sacrifice” in 1976 to purchase this coin from Dr. Beretta, who was a classical art teacher with “exquisite” taste. Dr. Beretta was one of the first collectors to have the opportunity to purchase coins from the Dattari collection when it was dispersed, and he was able to purchase some of the best and finest pieces in the collection.

One of the most remarkable cults of the ancient world was that which grew up around the youth Antinoüs, a boy from Claudiopolis in Bithynia who attracted the attention of the emperor Hadrian. Hadrian apparently had little love for his wife Sabina, and chose instead to shower favors on the handsome youth, whom he apparently chanced upon during a visit to Bithynia. During the emperor’s tour of Egypt in October AD 130, Antinoüs fell into the Nile and drowned, an event resulting in suspicions of suicide or ritual murder. The distraught Hadrian had his favorite immediately deified, and the worship of Antinoüs became an important facet of the imperial cult. Within a few years, the worship of Antinoüs was far larger than the worship of another “cult” figure of the period – Jesus Christ.