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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: CNG 64, Lot: 4. Estimate $750. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 24 September 2003. 
Sold For $900. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

CELTIC, Danube Region. Imitating Philip II of Macedon. Circa 3rd century BC. AR Tetradrachm (11.89 gm). Laureate head of Zeus right / Rider on horseback right, carrying palm; disarticulated legend above, crescent below front leg, L and race-torch below. Cf. CCCBM I 8; Kostial -; cf. Göbl, OTA 104/2. Toned VF. ($750)

At first glance, this coin is just one of the many varieties of Macedonian style tetradrachms struck for use in Celtic lands north of the Balkans. A closer examination reveals an interesting feature. The beard of Zeus is developed in a manner not seen on other similar coins, having an unusual pattern of lines and dots. When the obverse is rotated 180¾ one discovers a ram's head facing right, with the beard of Zeus becoming a thick curving horn. The ram makes one other appearance on an eastern Celtic tetradrachm, in the Noricum series of Svicca (Göbl, Noricum, H1/13-17) where a laureate head of Apollo is transformed into a ram standing before a pine tree; the animal is also seen as a helmet crest worn by the horseman on the reverse. The ram appears infrequently in Celtic art, and its use on the coins of Svicca is likely to be explained as the personal or tribal badge or totem of a Gallic chieftain. The clever insertion of the ram into the design of the present tetradrachm provides a subtle link to the later Noricum tribal issues.