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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Achilles and the Centaur Chiron

Triton XXI, Lot: 164. Estimate $5000.
Sold for $8500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

EGYPT, Alexandria. Antoninus Pius. AD 138-161. Æ Drachm (34mm, 23.83 g, 12h). Dated RY 5 (AD 141/142). AYT K T AIΛ A∆P ANTωNINOC CЄB ЄYC, laureate head right / Achilles and the Centaur Chiron – The Centaur Chiron standing right, left foreleg raised, head left with his upper human torso turned facing, holding a helmet in his left hand, his right arm leading the young Achilles; Achilles is standing right, holding a spear with his right hand and a shield with his left; L Є (date) in exergue. Köln 1873 (same dies); Dattari (Savio) 2505 & 8369; K&G –; Emmett 1485.5 (R5); Staffieri, Alexandria In Nummis 135 (this coin). VF, lovely dark brown patina with touches of green and red. Wonderful surfaces. Extremely rare, and probably the finest known specimen.

From the Giovanni Maria Staffieri Collection. Ex Kerry K. Wetterstrom Collection (Classical Numismatic Auctions XIII, 4 December 1990), lot 218.

One of the great rarities of the Antoninus Pius mythological series from the Alexandria mint, and only the second that this cataloguer can recall being offered for sale: we have now handled this coin twice, and we recently sold a second specimen in our Classical Numismatic Review (Vol. XLII, No. 3, Summer 2017), lot 468723 = Dattari 8370. The present coin was one of the highlights of the 1990 auction of the Wetterstrom collection, realizing $3250 on the hammer. Dattari owned three examples (his nos. 2505, 8369, and 8370), and all three are equally worn. There are also examples in the Köln (cited above) and Paris collections (Mionnet 1949). Emmett cited two examples: the Wetterstrom coin and possibly an example in the ANS collection (1944.100.60963), but the ANS coin is actually “Hercules with the Centaur Pholos” (cf. Köln 1428).

“The wise and benevolent centaur Chiron, as tutor and guide, was given the custody of the sons of many ancient princes” and heroes (including Hercules). Another such pupil was Achilles, of Trojan War fame, who spent his formative years with Chiron. The reverse type on the present coin depicts Chiron leading the young Achilles, who carries a spear and shield, while Chiron holds his helmet.