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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Triton XXI, Lot: 259. Estimate $3000.
Sold for $3500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

EGYPT, Alexandria. Diocletian. AD 284-305. Potin Tetradrachm (18mm, 6.40 g, 6h). Struck circa AD 296. ΔΙΟΚΛΗΤΙΑΝOC CЄB, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right / IC IC, Isis standing facing, head left, holding a sistrum with her right hand and a long scepter with her left. Köln –; Dattari (Savio) –; K&G 119.141 (this coin cited); Emmett 4090 (R5); A. Geissen, “Numismatische Bemerkung zu dem Aufstand des L. Domitius Domitianus,” ZPE 22 (1976) p. 284 and pl. XVI, 19; Staffieri, “Testimonianze sulla fine della monetazione autonoma alessandrina (296-298 d.C),” Proceedings of the XIII International Numismatic Congress (Madrid, 2005), pp. 937-45, Fig. 5 (this coin); Staffieri, Alexandria In Nummis 271 (this coin). EF, attractive dark green patina with traces of silvering. Extremely rare, and probably one of the finest known specimens.

From the Giovanni Maria Staffieri Collection. Ex Münzauktion Tkalec AG (23 October 1992), lot 434.

Because of the reverse, this tetradrachm has been erroneously attributed as an issue related to the Festival of Isis coinage. Alföldi, in his work on the subject, demonstrated that all the Festival of Isis coinage was of imperial type, minted at Rome in the later fourth century AD, and conformed to a standardized legend and type – VOTA PVBLICA and the goddess standing on her divine ship. Since he listed no provincial issues commemorating the festival, and since the striking of provincial coinage had ended by the beginning of the fourth century, it is reasonable to conclude that this tetradrachm, while it does depict Isis, is not to be associated with the festival in Rome.

In any event, this type is very rare, and some extremely rare Alexandrian coins may offer a clue for its use under Diocletian. Egypt was undergoing a number of economic changes as the Roman government was beginning to end the production of its provincial coinage and replacing it with imperial types. During this transition, while the mint was striking tetradrachms of a more imperial style with increasingly imperial types, very rare undated issues, some with specifically Egyptian reverses, such as this coin, were also struck. Most likely, these latter coins were an attempt to ease the changes taking place and accommodate a population used to its local monetary types. Ultimately, this policy failed to satisfy, for shortly after the new imperial coinage was introduced, a revolt in Egypt broke out under Domitius Domitianus.