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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: CNG 64, Lot: 535. Estimate $5000. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 24 September 2003. 
Sold For $4750. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

GREEK KINGS of BAKTRIA. Diodotos I, in the name of Antiochos II of Syria. Circa 255-235 BC. AV Stater (8.36 gm). Mint A (near Ai Khanoum). Attic standard. Diademed head of Diodotos I right / Zeus advancing left, holding thunderbolt and aegis, eagle at his feet; N in left field. Cf. Holt Series A, Group 7 (tetradrachm); Bopearachchi -; SNG ANS -; cf. MIG 63 (for type); SC 629. EF, rare without test cut. ($5000)

The following group of Bactrian gold staters almost certainly comes from a hoard found in India in 2001. Initially thought to number in the many hundreds, current opinion places the count at about 70 pieces. For background in the circumstances surrounding the hoard, see O. Bopearachchi and K. Grigo, "Thundering Zeus revisited," in ONS Newsletter 169 (Autumn 2001).

The variety of Diodotus I gold stater with the N control, as in catalog numbers 535-9 was previously known only from a cast forgery in the BM, although the control was known for tetradrachms. It was thus excluded in the catalogs by Holt (Thundering Zeus) and Kritt (Dynastic Transitions in the Coinage of Bactria). The many new examples from the hoard now firmly establish the validity of this variety, and it has been published as SC 629. The variety with wreath and M controls (catalog no. 542) is apparently new and unpublished. It is from the same Mint A as the other hoard coins, and should probably be placed between the N variety (Holt A7, cf. Dynastic Transitions, p. 8) and the wreath variety (catalog nos. 549-1; Holt A8).

Other implications for the current model of Diodotid coinages will follow from still additional unpublished varieties from the hoard in due course. Holt had proposed a theory to explain the numerous test cuts on these coins (cf. Dynastic Transitions, p. 14), relating them to a weight reduction from 8.6g to c. 8.3g during the reign of Diodotus II at the time of the invasion of Euthydemus. With numerous uncut Diodotus I staters from the hoard at the lower weight, such as catalog nos. 535 and 537, this theory must now be discarded. The near uniform placement of the test cuts does suggest some official act, however.

The presence of such a major hoard of Bactrian gold in India strongly supports substantial contacts between the Seleucid colonists and that area, and likely also the presence of an Indian component of the Seleucid colony at Ai Khanoum, as developed in Dynastic Transitions (cf. pp. 67-68 and 177-178). Brian Kritt