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The First Silver Coin of the Romans

171, Lot: 58. Estimate $300.
Sold for $460. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Anonymous. 280-276 BC. AR Didrachm (18mm, 6.51 g). Metapontum mint(?). Bearded head of Mars left, wearing Corinthian helmet; oak-spray behind / Horse’s head right on base inscribed ROMANO; stalk of grain behind. Crawford 13/1; Sydenham 1; RSC 4. Near VF, toned, edge filed, possibly removed from jewelry.

From the Karl Sifferman Collection.

The first Roman silver coins were produced about the time of King Pyrrhus' invasion of Italy at the behest of the Tarentines (280 BC) and were struck on a weight standard derived from the currency of the Campanian city of Neapolis. This initial issue (Mars/horse's head) seems to have been produced at the Greek mint of Metapontum, an attribution strongly suggested by the ear of barley appearing behind the horse's head on the reverse. The dies for this first issue of Roman didrachms display the fine Greek style for which the Metapontine coinage was renowned. The head of Mars on the obverse is inspired by the portrait of Leukippos, the founder of Metapontum when it was resettled from Sybaris, which had appeared regularly on the Metapontine coinage in the latter part of the 4th century.