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Research Coins: Feature Auction


The Sixth Labor – Herakles and the Stymphalian Birds

Triton XXI, Lot: 153. Estimate $7500.
Sold for $11000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

EGYPT, Alexandria. Antoninus Pius. AD 138-161. Æ Drachm (35mm, 25.37 g, 12h). Labors of Herakles series. Dated RY 6 (AD 142/143). [AV]T K T AIΛ A∆P ANTωNINO[C C]ЄB Є[VC], laureate head right / Herakles and the Stymphalian Birds – Herakles standing right, wearing lion's skin over his head and down his shoulders, quiver over his right shoulder, drawing arrow back in bow and pointing it slightly upward; before, three of the Stymphalian birds falling from the sky; behind, club and L ς (date). Köln –; Dattari (Savio) 8479 (same dies); K&G –; Emmett 1543.6 (R5 – rev. of this coin illustrated on p. 74B); Curtis, “The Coinage of Roman Egypt: A Survey” (reprinted from The Numismatist, January-August 1956), Pl. XXVI (this coin’s reverse illustrated); Staffieri, Alexandria In Nummis 157 (this coin). Good VF, dark brown patina with touches of green. Extremely rare, and one of the finest known for the type. The only other example sold since 2000 was the coin in Triton V (2002), lot 1777, which sold again in Triton XI (2008), lot 530. Emmett lists this types as being struck for four of Pius’ regnal years: 4, 5, 6, and 10.

From the Giovanni Maria Staffieri Collection. Ex Kerry K. Wetterstrom Collection (Classical Numismatic Auctions XIII, 4 December 1990), lot 199; William B. Porter Collection; Carl W.A. Carlson Collection; Col. James W. Curtis Collection.

The Stymphalian Birds were man-eating birds that had claws of brass, sharp metallic feathers they could launch at their victims, and highly toxic dung. Driven to the heavily wooded area around Lake Stymphalia by a pack of wolves, they bred quickly and took over the countryside, destroying local crops and fruit trees. They were also favorites of Ares. To complete this Labor, Athena and Hephaestos assisted Herakles by forging crotala, or large bronze clappers, by which the birds could be frightened into flight; then, Herakles shot them down with his arrows, as depicted on the coin type.