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Research Coins: Feature Auction

 
11100215

The Delphic Omphalos

CNG 111, Lot: 215. Estimate $6000.
Sold for $7000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

MYSIA, Kyzikos. Circa 450-330 BC. EL Hekte – Sixth Stater (9mm, 2.68 g). Two eagles standing facing each other on ornamented omphalos; below, tunny right / Quadripartite incuse square. Hurter & Liewald II 220 = Münzen und Medaillen AG 54, lot 266; Von Fritze I 220 (only staters noted); cf. Boston MFA 1535 (stater); cf. SNG France 348 (stater). In NGC encapsulation, 3817834-001, graded Choice AU, Strike: 3/5, Surface: 4/5. Extremely rare.


Ex Classical Numismatic Group 96 (14 May 2014), lot 387 (hammer $9,000).

This extremely rare hekte type depicts the legend of the omphalos (navel) stone, which marked the sacred precinct of the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi as the physical center of the earth. According to tradition, two eagles, which had been released by Zeus, one flying from the east, and the other from the west, met exactly at the site of Apollo’s sanctuary. This spot was marked for all to see by the stone omphalos, and designated as the center of the earth. The omphalos was a white stone ornamented with stripes of various kinds, and upon it were the representations of the two eagles (as seen on this coin type – the tunny fish below is the city-badge of Kyzikos). This scene was frequently represented in vase-paintings, but is extremely rare on coinage. The omphalos probably stood on the sacred hearth, which was in the center of the temple.

While the same design is also found on full staters, only two other hektes of this type are recorded in CoinArchives.com. One was sold by Tradart S.A. on 18 December 2014 for €26,000 ($31,925) hammer, and the second by Roma Numismatics Ltd. on 26 September 2018 for £11,000 ($14,500) hammer.